Social scientists now suggest that multi-tasking is bad for you. Trying to pay attention to a dozen things at once while being interrupted, or interrupting yourself, every 20 seconds is destructive to concentration. Increasingly, we lack the satisfaction of focusing on one topic for even an hour or two, of learning one thing well.
Taking one class devoted to one thing for one hour could do wonders for getting your focus back. Learn job skills or take up the hobby you've never had time for. Get healthy. Open up a new side of your personality. Yes, there is Knitting 101, and yoga and photography and conversational French. But once again, we've searched high and low for courses you might not have imagined.
You've already missed Kentucky Rifle Building for this year, in which students make a muzzle-loading rifle from scratch (and no, we are not making this up; it's a Madison College continuing ed class taught at Belleville High School). But there is plenty of other practical craft instruction available. Sewing: Renovate Clothing instructs in the art of upcycling your existing duds, from a new sleeve style to creative mashups of your old jeans with hubby's old neckties. This is the fastest route to becoming a trashionista. It will be held Fridays at Madison College South, 9 a.m.-noon, April 9-May 14; $49. To register, see matcmadison.edu/continuing-ednon-credit or call 608-246-6100.
Have you been trying to ignore social media? Surrender, Dorothy; it's no use. Learn the most effective ways to use the seemingly ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter to benefit your organization or business. This one-day workshop, Social Media Marketing: Introduction, will help you create a social media marketing plan. It may or may not help you understand Facebook's ever-morphing user interface. It's through UW-Madison Continuing Education, on March 31, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.; $150. To register, see here or call 608-262-2451.
Southwestern Wisconsin has some of the best trout streams in the Midwest. And here you are, casting a line off the pier behind the Memorial Union.
Learn how to fly fish at Hooked on Fly Fishing,
a Wisconsin Union Mini-Course that's a basic introduction to the sport. The two sessions will cover equipment, tackle preparation and selection, casting, fishing strategies and even stream ecology, entomology, and how to "read" a river. There will also be a fly-tying demo ($59.50, 6:30-9:30 p.m. on April 6 and 13).
For those who prefer their nature in two dimensions, try Pounded Flower Art, also a Union Mini-Course. Hammer flower petals and leaves onto, or into, watercolor paper or fabric, with crafting possibilities including stationery and framed art, clothing and jewelry. Plus, there's the side benefit of diminishing your stress levels by whacking away on your petals - the class description includes the instruction to bring "a small hammer and earplugs." ($29.50 plus $5 for materials, excluding the hammer and earplugs, 6-9 p.m. on May 27.)
For a listing of all Union Mini-Courses, see here or check your public library for a printed catalog. Call 608-262-3156 or 608-262-5771 for information.
You must be a Union member to take a class, but anyone can get an intro membership for $30.
Irish dance seems to get all the flashy stage productions, but Scottish dance is fun, too. Learn the reels, jigs and strathspeys of Scotland in a class for those 18 and older, held at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center through Madison School & Community Recreation (meets Sundays 6-7 p.m., April 11-May 23, $21; register here).
A few more ways to get your heart pumping through MSCR include 15/15/15 (15 minutes of cardio training, 15 of toning and 15 of a surprise exercise genre drawing from yoga, zumba, hip-hop dance, stretching and something called "butts and guts") and 20/20/20 (same idea, just five minutes more of each), and 20/20/20 Dance, which combines zumba, kickboxing and hip-hop. Sessions will be held across Madison; see here or call 608-204-3000.
Finally, learn about natural herbs that can get you in tune with spring. Spring Tonic Herbs will be taught by two Community Pharmacy herbalists through Olbrich Gardens. Students will learn how to identify common local herbs and make fresh recipes. Wednesday, April 21, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; $15 includes supplies, samples and handouts. To register, see here or call 608- 246-4550.