Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Cubbyhole Mind

My Cubbyhole Mind

One At A Time Or You're Tasking for Trouble

As I have mentioned before, I am a Unitasker. This is something I realized a couple of years ago, a quality that explains why at one moment I'm an efficient, effective communicator, and the next I'm a bumbling, muttering idiot. All my social quirks are byproducts of my unitasking brain; or as I have come to know it — my "Cubbyhole Mind".

The Multitasker

The Multitasker's Mind

Before I delve into the Cubbyhole Mind, let's explore the opposite end of the spectrum — the Multitasker. I've drawn a little something above to give you a visual representation of what a multitasker's mind looks like. There's lots and lots of spaces there to put things. Everything can sit conveniently out in plain view. This multitasker in particular can talk on the phone, and cook pasta at the same time. They're also thinking about a purse and shoes they'd like to purchase, as well as thinking about sock monkeys they'd like to make this evening. Yup. Everything's under control here.

The Unitasker

The Unitasker's Mind

Now let's take a look at the Unitasker's mind. Oh dear — it appears the unitasker only has one cubbyhole. Not a lot of space there. It looks like this particular unitasker is currently washing the dishes. Let's just say the phone rings right now... what would we see?

The Unitasker's Mind

Looks like the unitasker just went to answer the phone. See how it just plopped right in front of the dishes? Luckily, you can still see the dishes in there, and hopefully when the phone call is over (and removed from the cubbyhole) the unitasker will get right back to the dishes. But what if the person who called had a question about something on TV? Say our unitasker goes to the TV to answer their question...

The Unitasker's Mind

Uh oh. Those dishes just fell right out of the back of the cubbyhole. The only way they'll get done now is if our unitasker goes back into the kitchen and sees a bunch of unwashed dishes. Hopefully, that'll be enough to remind them that they were actually doing the dishes before they started to watch TV. But... it's highly unlikely this will happen. It's prime time!

The Mojo Factor

So now that you understand the unitasker mind, I can give you a little insight into the particulars of my own problem. As I mentioned above, once something falls out of the back of the cubbyhole, the only way it can get back in is if it enters through the front again. By this I mean, I'd have to notice something all over again to remember it. I've learned a couple of little tricks to help me remember things I don't want to forget — writing it on my hand, putting reminders in front of doors — stuff like that.

But there are certain things that I'll never forget. They just appear in the cubbyhole, without any reminder. They are the product of a mischievous, diabolical mind, bent on creating chaos and upsetting the natural order. I've created an excellent metaphor for this tendency; I call it the Mojo Factor.

The Mojo living in my Mind

What does this mean for me? Well, as I try and function as a unitasker, taking care of items in the cubbyhole before I put a new one in there, Mojo hangs out inside the cubby, with his own agenda. Sure, there's a dish in there now, but Mojo doesn't want to hang out with a dish; he wants to be entertained:

The Mojo living in my Mind

I didn't see a playstation, but suddenly an urge to play one has popped into my head. And it's not just video games. At any time my queue gets displaced with pizza, television, website browsing, porn, liquor, guitar, candy, movies, drawing, napping, work-related email, leisurely staring, and inumerable urges to draw Mojo cartoons. I just thank my lucky stars Mojo seems to hate sports.

My Uni-hope

I'm not looking for pity here. Besides, only the multitaskers will pity me. The rest of my unitasker brethren will stand with me as one. Because there is a side benefit to being a unitasker. I truly believe that when I'm focused on a task, I complete it faster and more efficiently than a multitasker. Which makes sense, right? I mean... as long as nothing distracts me. The multasker is cramming 5 activities into one hour, whereas I do that one activity until it's done. I might finish 2 minutes faster!

So there you are. Now that you have an understanding of multitaskers versus unitaskers, feel free to diagnose yourself. Perhaps you've even got a Mojo factor of your own... perhaps you can now understand the frequent random urges to peel bananas, or lounge in a tree. Whatever the case, we must learn to live together, we taskers. Because if we continue to be at odds, the unitaskers will never finish their laundry.

Comments on this Article

There are currently 60 comments.

[ Add one of your own! ]


A very accurate description of... me! Apart from all the drawing, I'm no good at that.


I hate to alarm you but there is an animal in your house

Shaun Inman

Never has my plight been so accurately illustrated. Hear, hear!


I wasn't first, but I was partying so it was worth it :D I'm sure it's great, KC, but I'm just too tired to read it all now...


*Sigh* I particularly love your cubbyhole illustrations… maybe enough that when I get frustrated with your unitasking abilities, I can picture it and it will give me that extra 20 seconds of patience that I need to put myself in the shoes of a unitasker. By the way, that purse looks like something I'd like to purchase!


Henrik - Your Mojo Factor must not like drawing then...

McMullen - !

Shaun - No way! I would have definitely pegged you as a multitasker, champ...

Anders - That's okay. All streaks come to an end :) What were you partying about?

Kim - Uh oh. Now I have to draw money for you to purchase purses I've drawn.


I consider myself a bitasker... or is it ditasker...


Really funny, Kevin. Do you guys REALLY have a huge bag of Peas in the freezer?


No.. um... actually... I just spelled "pee" wrong... oh dear...


I think we, did have one. Speaking of a bag of peas, they are a multitasker! …a delicious side dish as well as a cold compress!

Ara Pehlivanian

It seems to me like you're describing males vs. females. Most men tend to be unitaskers whereas women are naturally multi-taskers. Just ask my wife. She gets five things done before I figure out what to do next. Or is that just laziness?

BTW, there have been studies that show that the human brain works best while unitasking and poorly while multi-tasking.


Excellent description of exactly what happens to us when we try to handle more than we can. Unitaskers of the world, Unite!


i think the bear is upset that the freezer door is open. he looks like the energy conservation type of bear.

Ara Pehlivanian

Paul: Or maybe the task of turning him into a rug got pushed out of the cubbyhole by the need to do dishes and now he's seeking bloody revenge.


I notice you haven't addressed the Hypertasker. I happen to be afflicted with this terrible, terrible adversity. Allow me to give an example: I started this comment at about 9amEST. I then remembered that I was expecting an email, so I opened a new tab, checked for that, read the word of the day, discussed it with a co-worker, recalled that I have work due today, went to work on that, got that email that I'd been expecting, stepped out for a smoke, came back to this comment, did some work, commented at Stan's, ate lunch, read an ALA article, came back to this comment and am now finishing it.
The doctors call it ADD. I call it Hypertasking.


i would imagine one would need a bag of peas in their freezer with all the hijinx created by mojo. he must leave a knot on the noggin or an egg on the shin from time-to-time... scoundrel. [but a loveable scoundrel at that]


The second Mojo illustration would be even funnier if you'd chosen to illustrate the porn aspect. His hand would be in just the right spot, assuming he has hands.


Women (MT) usually serve tables better than men (UT). The good male waiter exceptions are often either gay or stoned, perhaps both.

Waiting tables is an excellent mental exercise for all.


You're lucky you can still see the cubby hole(s) at all! I am almost sure I have maybe a 4-cubby mind, but then some giant Safari icon just pops up in front of everything to the point where the entire cubbies just vanish... which it did before I got here, as a matter of fact...


I have a question about the bear:

Hold on...the phone just rang....





wow..that's amazing. Right now i'm reading this article, talking on the phone, eating a sandwich, packing stuff into boxes and reading a magazine at the same time. So, does that make me a unitasker? :P


Bearskinrug - it was the ball for all graduating graphic designers...handing in my last assignment tomorrow! :)


...and yes, it IS great, and I believe I'm also a member of UA...

me: Hi, I'm Anders, and I'm a unitasker.

group: HI ANDERS!


Ian, I think I'm part of the Hypertaskers group. I didn't realize it until I read your comment !
I simply CAN'T do UT or efficient MT, so the ... hmmm qu'il fait beau dehors, j'irais bien me balader.
Hum, sorry. About what did we speak ?


poor unitaskers. like [sock] monkeys without tails, you are.

and i dispute the male/female claim. exhibit A: my wife, who is not only NOT a multitakser, she's pretty much a nontasker.


Very nicely drawn and written.


Do you rent Mojo out? Not for any monkey-business, you understand.


Match - Well... better a Safari icon than an actual Safari. That could get expensive.

Vito - You have to finish your thought! I can't keep your question in the cubbyhole forever... I need to eat.

Fiona - Sounds like you've got a five-cubbyhole mind to me!

Composernate/Wayne - I do think most women are better multitaskers than men. But I have no scientific proof. I have a lot of hearsay, though!

Wally - :) Thanks!


I am again not sleeping right now. THANKS.

also- these lil illo's are freaking awesome kevin. beautiful, brilliant and freaking funny! now that i know mojo is in there i will be more sympathetic to your plight, and i still think you can just build another cubby.

Jon Buda

I kid you not, my unitasking once led me to completely melt a metal pot on the stove. Once the water boiled off, The softer metal innards of the pan somehow got so incredibly hot, they broke through the copper bottom and spilled forth upon my poor stove. I suppose that's why I actually need to take a break for lunch now.

Thanks for the great site. Your humor is quite humorous.


I am a pathetic Unitasker. I generally say to myself "whatever you do don't forget that letter", 3 seconds later I pick up the car keys and about 35 miles later I might see a post box and then the letter comes flooding back in to my head. Thankfully I can drive and think about stuff I've forgotten at the same time!! I also think my left hand is written on more than your average book of post-its.

Old School Pete

It warms my heart to know that I'm not the only unitasker out there. When I read the clever analogy I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry about how accurately it describes the way I function. I even have a bag of frozen pee in my fridge.


I can't summon up andy bons mots or clever phrases but I CAN say: that was so much fun to read and look at! You're damn good.


An original unitasker you are Mr. Cornell; I thought that was a drawback in this age, but you seem to gimme support on the point. Excellent artwork ;) Surges a rush of illustration adrenalin right into my heart...


I call mine the Tucker factor. Similar to the Mojo factor, except for the fact the he's distracting me by actually pushing the pile of dirty dishes onto the floor as I clean up the orange juice that he dumped on the other side of the kitchen, which distracted me from changing the laundry, which distracted me from doing the dishes...

I'd have to say that building another cubby has almost woked for me. When away from home, and any sort of stress, I can successfully manage 3 or 4 tasks. Any test to the structural integrity of the extra cubbies, however, results in a scene much like the on at the top of the page.

Though I keep trying, I have learned to tape off the extra cubbies, at least under the full force of the Tucker factor. Too often they have fallen under the force of a 3 year old.


How the hell is that TV in fig.4 on when it's not even plugged in!? I want one of those! I like the nails popping out of the cubby in an attempt to accomodate. Another article with fantastic illustrations, here.

We all have Mojo Factors of our own. Mine doesn't like sports, either, though I just finished a two-day stint of PlayStation gorging and am in the midst of a Twin Peaks marathon.

(Nitpicking: it should be "You're Tasking for Trouble"; "you're," as in "you are." I am *not* asking for trouble, by the way)


Niff - I wonder if I could build another cubby. On some intense emotional retreat or something. Or with some kind of zen yoga voodoo drink...

Jon - Dear God that sounds cool. How long was it on the stove? I wanna do that!

Owen - Oh definitely. I almost IMMEDIATELY forget names right after I'm introduced to someone.

Old School Pete - I don't suppose you'd want to trade pee bags?

Laura/Krush - Thanks, guys!

Randallard - Having a child will be the ULTIMATE test of my unitasking brain. I'll have to give up eating!

Todd - Haha - I know another pair who did a similar marathon... although I don't know if they finished...

Excellent catch by the way — I've made the correction — much appreciated :)

Charles G

I agree, your humor is quite humorous.


Read your article during and episode of Mojo factor. Very interesting.


Ladies and gentleman... that is indeed my ACTUAL father posting.

Hi Dad!


Interesting. See, I've always kind of seen myself as a "try-tasker" ... I'll try to do one thing until something else diverts my attention. In those instances, much like the unitasker, I am diverted until the previously required ...

Mmmmm ... biscuits. So this one time I went to ...

R R Anderson

That's freakin funny.

Terry Tolleson

I love this.

But stay out of my head please.


Greggie...come back! *voice trails off*

RR - :D

Terry - Fine. But someday you'll miss me and you'll think, "I wish Kevin hadn't left my head".

Brent O'Connor

Wow, great illustrations! It really made me think about where I stand. I think I'm might be somewhere in the middle but now that I think about it I might be more of a unitasker who wants to be a better multitasker.

I've even been thinking lately that it might be good to take periods of time where I turn off my Instant Messenger and email so that I can just work on whatever it is I need to work on with out interruption. I think this is hard to do because it takes discipline and I have to face the fact that I'm weak. But, I think there are a lot more people out there that are probably like the unitasker brain that should consider shutting off all the things that compete for our attention so that we can get the unit tasks done more quickly. And it seems like the things on a computer and in daily life that compete for our attention are just going to get worse as we “evolve” as people.


... so this one time I went to ... oooh ... Molly Ringwald on a scone!

Mmm ... Pretty in Blueberry.

So really, I try to stay task-centric but I find myself diverted in the most interesting and creative ways.

AMAZING how a significant other when they "say" they're going to just lay on the bed and watch TV while you work REALLY cannot just lay on the bed and do "nothing" without letting you know that they're not going to ... and reminding you incesantly so ... that they're not going to bother you while you work ...

But I digress.

We must ask ourselves. Are we entirely responsible for the effects of others on our ability to concentrate on one thing at a ...

Ooooh ...


Brent - I DEFINITELY have had to shut down IM and email in order to get things done. Don't be afraid... You're not alone...

Greggie - I'd comment.. but I'd probably just be getting myself in trouble... :D

Michael Holland

That is so cool! And disturbingly familiar. I'm definitely a unitasker though I didn't realise until recently. Now I can refer people to this page to explain my strange behaviour!


I am Jack's Mojo.


Now I know why I can check my email, eat lunch and read a painting book while talking on the phone and my husband does not answer me when he's watching tv


Michael Holland - There you go! I'm providing a community service!

Mike - Mike! Tyler is actually YOU! Watch out!

Lindsay - Yup. Sounds like a classic case :D


I was gonna write something but I forgot what it was.


Yeah.... that'll happen. If only the article wasn't so long!

Nate Cavanaugh

I would say more often than not, you're going to find that guys are uni-taskers, and women are multi-taskers.
Here's why
When guys are young, testosterone floods their brain, and fries the nerve endings connecting the two halves of the brain. Women however never experience this frying.
Since the nerve connectors are so strong between the halves, women get what's called cross-talk. Basically they'll be walking down the street, talking on the cell phone, shopping for more crap, and remember Aunt Jennies birthday party, and she was thinking about getting her that ultra-noz-honker-widget that she wanted so much because she mentioned it that one time five years ago, under her breath.

Guys however, since they use one side of their brain at a time have a harder time multi-tasking, but are able to focus much better on any given task, as well as enabling the ability to visualize objects in space much better, hence why so many of engineers, architects, etc are male.

So basically, most of us are uni-taskers, while women are multi-taskers.
/End misogynistic gender based generalizations.

Anyways, your art rocks, and you capture the essence of every post perfectly. Great stuff.


Thanks, Nate!


Wow, you got me pegged! That's the best description I've ever read of how my brain works. I used to think of myself as a multi-thinker and a single-tasker... but, as you described it, I'm just a unitasker with a little Mojo trying to cram s*** in my cubby when there's already too little room. I'm going to reference this post in the future. Nice!


Nate's got it right on -- and it just leads me to think that these differences should be widely recognized and, for lack of a better word, "celebrated". If each sex would generally accept and even learn to use the other's tasking style to its full advantage, both would benefit. I know it sounds cheesy...
Thanks anyway, Kevin, for an inspiring site and for your refreshing honesty. I just discovered it and have now bloglined it. Hello to your dad as well, he must be very cool...


...I should add that, given the right attitude and circumstances, a chronic unitasker can improve. For example, having children has definite potential for expanding multi-tasking capabilitie, and not necessarily reducing the quality of work. But, you have to be willing to work on it.
That's just been my experience anyway...


Wible - Haha! Excellent - I'm glad I could help BOTH of us come to terms with ourselves!

Timmay - Thanks! And let's hope I can learn to multitask when I have kids... otherwise I'll have to quit this job and find a way to make money while changing diapers...


This is veracious. You should be famous.

[ Back to Top ]

Recent Articles

[ Visit Article Archives ]

Who Carols Mojo and the Leaves MUSTACHE! The Symbol For Jerk Interpreting Excelsior Dead Love The Big Sandwich Mojo The Bounty Hunter Sketchbook 22 Live! Six-Penny Anthems II