I think it’s easy for us to look down on multitasking. The implication is that you’re not giving 100% to what you’re currently doing, but rather constantly having your mind on multiple things. But the truth is, all of us are multitasking through life. If you play more than one role, then you’re a multitasker.
I have been multitasking for years. It’s rare that I’m ever only committed to one thing– whether it’s work, studying, volunteering, serving, building a relationship or caring for my family. Before we pile on those activities that we actually do for fun, most of us have a pretty long list of obligations.
Lately, my days have been split among very different tasks and roles. Sometimes I’m just working on building a home and life together with my husband (who knew that cleaning could take all day?). In addition to blogging, I also take classes part-time and work as a private tutor. Weekly we meet with our church small group and I occasionally play the piano for our services. I’m sure your daily life is somewhat similar to mine.
So how do we go about multitasking without completely falling apart? If multitasking is the reality in which we live, then what can we do to make the most of it?
1) Prioritize the most life-giving commitment. Among those things that you do, what brings you the most joy? What is refreshing rather than exhausting? What makes you feel alive? Prioritize that thing. It might be your family or your faith. It might be taking care of your own health by eating well and exercising. Whatever it is, make sure it takes #1 priority over everything else. This will keep you sane.
2) Wherever you are, be fully there. The hardest place to draw boundaries is in our own minds. But to the extent that you can, be present in the role that you are playing in each moment. If you’re in a meeting for work, focus. If you’re spending time with family, offer your emotional attention. And when it’s time to put that phone away, put it away.
3) Never work without a list. Whether you are a natural planner or not, it is best to work with a list in front of you. Written reminders have always helped me feel less stressed about the tasks I have before me. And oh, does it feel good to cross things off that list, am I right?
4) Ask for help when you need it. We all tend to take on too much, but not all of us realize that we can ask for help. Before falling into despair, look around to see if someone can assist you. Along with this point is the importance of re-evaluating what you can manage. If you are constantly asking for help and relying on others, perhaps it’s time to let go of some obligations and allow someone else to take them on.
5) Become friends with imperfection. Whether we multitask or not, we are not likely to always have things go our way. Sometimes this is a result of a job not well-done, but other times it’s a matter of circumstances beyond our control. Whatever that imperfection is, let it be and move forward. Give yourself space to not achieve perfection.
And remember: as someone once wisely said to me, good enough is good enough. Those of us who love that feeling of achievement will hate this until we realize that it is our saving grace. Despite doing our best at everything we commit to, we inevitably fall short of perfection. But as a recovering perfectionist, I can say that there is so much freedom in letting go of my ridiculously high standards: I am happier, freer, humbler, and kinder. I’m less easily frustrated, and I find it easier to be my best self!
Are you a multitasker? How do you manage the demands that are made of you? I would love to know!