In this busy, non-stop world, a powerful myth has been formed that multi-tasking is the key to success and happiness.
Juggling multiple tasks can lead to a sense of pride and accomplishment. In many instances, multi-tasking is necessary to complete a huge undertaking such as a household renovation, work project, big move, or major life event. Doing more than one thing simultaneously and stretching our attention is often vital to making it through challenges, milestones, and celebrations. Yet when constant multi-tasking seeps into every facet of daily life, it can prove harmful.
I am a single-tasker. When too much is thrown at me, I stress out. I worry. I do not jump into action and cross things off my list with ease. I freeze. Then I retreat. I am wired to think things through, be methodical. Too much to do in a short time overwhelms me to the point of not wanting to do anything. And while I am entirely capable of putting out many fires at once, I make every effort to avoid it whenever possible.
Many of us strive to meet the dueling demands in any given day but this does not mean a) we are good at it or b) we enjoy it.
Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None
If someone spreads their time and mental focus across too wide a path, they will likely fail at something. Often people who boast at being good at everything are not. And if they dig deeper, they will discover some aspect of their life is suffering: health, self-care, relationship, job, school, social life, home. Multi-tasking is only beneficial when it leaves room for personal well-being, growth, and contentment. If the stress and pull of duties take away from the people and activities you love, it might be time for a significant change.
Do What You Love, Love What You Do
For many of us, the demands are overwhelming and unwanted. Closely monitor your calendar to be sure you do not over-commit. First should be the have-to-dos (basic needs of self and family). Next, add the agreed-to-dos (commitments to family, friends, work, school, church, community). Finally, consider the want-to-dos (hobbies, projects, entertainment). Review your schedule. Living up to promises and responsibilities is important, but there should be ample room left for what matters most to you. Priorities should be at the forefront and consuming the bulk of your time. If they are not, begin to say no to the excess.
TIPS FOR MINDFUL SINGLE-TASKING
1) Go technology-free. Check texts, phone messages, and email when you are alone or without distraction. More importantly, do not try to talk to someone who has eyes on a device rather than you.
2) Seize the moment. When someone you love asks to do something, do it with all you have. When my pre-teen son wants to snuggle and watch a movie, I drop everything and do it.
3) Write it down. If tasks are taking over your ability to think straight, document each one digitally or on paper. Seeing them in print helps with management and does wonders for perspective.
4) Be ruthless. When your list becomes too long or duties pile up, consider what can be put off, re-scheduled, or ignored completely. Immense relief comes from crossing unnecessary tasks off a list and letting go.
5) Compromise. If you cannot separate, strive to focus on one and then another in fair intervals. My husband fields work calls during family vacations by setting aside a few minutes every morning when my son and I are preoccupied.
6) Investigate. When you constantly sacrifice one area in favor of another or it begins to create problems, ask yourself why. Hiding behind duties in order to avoid people or situations might be cause for concern. Excessive procrastination may also be a sign your heart is no longer in a project, and it is time to let go.
7) Be sensitive to the demands of others. Sometimes we have to accept things will not always go our way. My husband travels a lot and when he does, my responsibilities grow. Initially, I fought it, but I have since learned to look at the bigger picture: he loves his job and my support is a huge reason for his attitude and success.
8) Find the magic. Moments of leisure are limited so make them extra special. If you are unaware of the cool trend of Hygge, consider it when you settle in for some quiet time.
9) Release perfection. We often believe we should perform a certain way in order to be a good parent, spouse, child, employee, friend, etc. Everyone has limits, and it is okay to acknowledge them. Giving to people we love is a fulfilling part of life, but be wary of the pressure to mold into a fabricated ideal. If you cannot do something well and with purpose, admit it and ask for help.
10) Find balance. With practice, patience, and understanding, you can learn to handle whatever life throws at you. Distractions are inevitable. Accept there will be chaotic moments and embrace the crazy, but also realize this does not have to be a permanent state.
Slow And Steady Wins The Race
Doing too much at once can give the false idea that we are somehow winning at life, getting ahead of others, or proving our value. Remember the classic fable The Tortoise and the Hare? The speedy hare taunts the slow tortoise into a race. Confident in its ability to win, the hare stops to nap. When he awakes, he is shocked to see the tortoise crawling across the finish line. The lesson? Overconfidence and rushing are not always the best approach. Perseverance, focus, and a little extra time to do the job right can be invaluable measures of success, putting you on a path to living the life you envision.
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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE