Completing partial activities

I love reading, and audiobooks are the next best thing for when I’m driving or doing chores. On the other hand, sometimes I get fidgety while watching TV, and it helps to have some simple knitting occupy my fingers.

Both of these pairings seem perfectly complementary: Boring chores occupy my hands and eyes but leave my mind free to listen, and TV needs my eyes, ears, and mind but doesn’t ask anything of my fingers. These combinations made me wonder what else might be possible, so I started a list of “partial activities” and sorted them based on which of these four faculties they required:

  • V (Visual): Do I have to watch?
  • A (Auditory): Do I have to listen?
  • P (Physical): Is my body unavailable for a different activity?
  • M (Mental): Do I need to think about it? (A litmus test: would I be unable to chat with someone while I do it?)

For example, driving is Visual and Physical (VP) while listening to an audiobook is Auditory and Mental (AM), so they’re good to pair together. On the other hand, watching television is Visual, Auditory, and Mental, so it’s reasonable to pair it with easy knitting (P) but not hard knitting (VPM).

Here are the lists of other partial activities I’ve compiled. I’ve put the lists in pairs so that I can choose one from the first list and one from the second and they’ll usually work together:

Visual and Physical (VP)
– washing dishes
– tidying and chores
– driving
– puzzles
– going on a walk
– exercising
– knitting (moderate difficulty)
– easy grading
Auditory and Mental (AM)
– listening to podcasts
– listening to audiobooks
– talking on the phone

– watching TV
– finger stretches
– easy knitting

– hard knitting
– math research
– climbing
– reading
– listening to music

There are other combinations that are possible: VA+PM, VM+AP, V+AMP, and VAP+M, but I haven’t thought of activities in those categories yet. Can you?

Note: No one says you have to occupy yourself in every way at every time. If you’re enjoying doing something with one part of you while you let another part rest, or if you’re trying to intentionally practice “single-tasking”, more power to you! I made this list for myself so that I can think of things to do when I feel understimulated, and thought the idea might be helpful for other people in similar situations.

2 thoughts on “Completing partial activities

  1. As usual it’s cool to have to organize your thoughts so cleanly on something I’ve been thinking about more abstractly. Thanks, Owen!


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