After reading this article in Aish by a Professor of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, sadly and surprisingly bereft of Jewish sources, I asked myself:

Is there a general Jewish teaching that says: "Do only one thing at a time." ?

I know the answer depends on what "things" we are talking about. But I am asking if there is such a general drift in Judaism.

Judaism is definitely against many forms of mixing:

-En me’arvin simchah besimchah — do not mix rejoicing and rejoicing. Do not try to enjoy two different things at the same time.

-We can’t mix milk and meat in our food

-We can’t mix wool and linen in our clothing

-We can’t sow a field with two different kinds of seeds

-We can’t plough with two animals of different species

-We can’t mix the holy and the secular in our activities (we switch from one to the other after a Havdalah ceremony).

Each activity must be experienced exclusively, and not shared with another activity. Don't eat a good meal while watching TV. If something goes wrong with one activity, it does not spoil another activity. Avoid two-track relationships: When a problem develops with one track, you end up losing both tracks.

These are specifics. But is there a corresponding generality?

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    I can also list things we do do at the same time. Tallit and Tefillin. Havdala and candle and spices. Matza and Maror. Etc. – Double AA Aug 7 '19 at 15:54
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    I think you are mixing two different concepts. There is definitely a concept of separation (e.g., shaatnez, meat and milk, not sowing mixed seeds, same with vine, and many others). There is a different question with multi tasking, which might be a good one, but I would remove the separation examples – mbloch Aug 7 '19 at 15:56
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    Your observation about lack of Jewish sources is a broader issue. Many self help books are the latest trend in self-help clothed in enough Jewish sources or chassidic stories to grant them a place in the sefarim store. Both among FFBs, and among those who think kiruv should be more like marketing than like education. – Micha Berger Aug 7 '19 at 18:05
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    How is "by a Professor of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, sadly and surprisingly bereft of Jewish sources" relevant to your question? It sounds condescending and unnecessary – alicht Aug 7 '19 at 19:45

I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for but another, perhaps more general expression discouraging multitasking (at least in the service of G-d) is: אין עושין מצוות חבילות חבילות - one doesn't bundle commandments together (see e.g. Sotah 8a; see also here and here.

Yet another even more general relevant bit of Jewish/Rabbinic advice is: תפסת מרובה לא תפסת - if you try to accomplish too much, you end up accomplishing nothing at all (lit: "[If] you have seized a lot, you have not seized"; based on a hermeneutical rule of Rabbi Akiva in the Sifra Metzora Parshath Zavim 5, cited, e.g., here; see also here).

  • I like your answer, but also worth follding in: . "העוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה -- one who is busy with one mitzvah is exempt from [another] mitzvah". See Sukkah 25a sefaria.org/Sukkah.25a.4 onward. – Micha Berger Aug 7 '19 at 18:06
  • Thanks. We are getting closer. Does it ever go beyond mitzvot -- e.g, eat and watch TV? – Maurice Mizrahi Aug 7 '19 at 18:35
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    "if you try to accomplish too much, you end up accomplishing nothing at all" - Isn't that essentially saying that quality is more important than quantity? – DanF Aug 7 '19 at 22:15
  • @DanF -- Yes, it is almost self-evident. But it does not imply you should not do two things at the same time. "Two" may not be "too much" for some. But is is STILL discouraged in Judaism? – Maurice Mizrahi Aug 8 '19 at 2:11

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