Trying to 'Single Task'
Multitasking. We all do it. We all do it most of the time. I don’t like to brag, but I would venture to say that I am one of the most successful multitaskers that the world may ever know. I am constantly doing three things at once. I can talk on the phone, write an essay, stand on one leg, and recite the Preamble backward. Okay, maybe not backwards, but close.
I am always doing, planning, stressing, organizing, and dreaming, and while many people would think this is an incredible quality to possess, I would argue it is both a blessing and a curse.
I never stop multitasking. There is the curse.
I cannot for the life of me just sit down and read a book. I can, however, sit down, read a book, make tea, talk to my friend on Snapchat, and plan my budget for 2019 at the same time. But, I cannot just read a book. And this curse carries over from my leisurely hobbies to my personal life. Sometimes, I find myself thinking about seven different recipes I want to try while talking to my brother on the phone or worrying about my tax refunds for the following year while out to dinner with my dad. Suffice it to say, multitasking can be a blessing and a curse, however, where is the line? And how do you keep that line distinguishable in a world where the more you can achieve in the least amount of time, the more successful and efficient you are seen to be?
I found my limit when my multitasking began to paralyze me.
My multitasking lived only in my head and I was unable to bring it to life.
I would sit in my room. I would think. I would worry and stress. I would organize. I would plan. I would make ‘to do’ lists. I would replay my plans. I would replay my goals.
Then, I would do nothing.
This happened with my blog because two things do not mesh well with one another: anxiety and multitasking.
When you have anxiety, you cannot achieve because you are unable to focus on tasks, but rather made-up fears. I was worried about what would happen if I posted a blog about my eating disorder. The kicker? I was worried about what would happen if I posted a blog about my eating disorder BEFORE I had even written the blog! I was worried about what would happen if people didn’t read my writing, however, I stressed about this before I had even made my website.
Multitasking did not enable me to achieve more. It enabled my anxiety to run rampant.
I would come up with 1,001 things to accomplish in a day and complete zero of them. I was too scared. I was in over my head. I didn’t know what I was talking about and therefore had no room to talk.
So, instead of accomplishing, I made lists. It sounds crazy. It was crazy. Every single morning, I would have new goals, resolutions, aspirations, and tasks to complete and none of them would ever get the slightest amount of my genuine attention. How could they? I could not stop reeling. I could not stop worrying. I could not stop multi-failing.
What finally got me out of this rut of multi-failing and multi-stressing was understanding this:
“I was never going to accomplish anything if I continued to try and accomplish everything.”
That was very hard for me to understand because the more I felt like I was failing, the more tasks I piled on. The days where I didn’t accomplish anything were the days where my ‘to do’ list reached two sticky notes instead of one.
Why is that? And why did this crippling multi-failing hit me so hard and so quickly?
1. We only have so much internal fire and energy.
My mind was utterly and entirely exhausted. Have you ever done an amazing leg work out? You are sweating and your knees are shaking. You feel exhausted, accomplished, and in desperate need of a shower. In fact, you love the high so much that you end up going back to the gym after work to do another workout. That’s your mistake. You need to rest. You need to recover. Too much of a good thing absolutely exists and you just crossed that line. Being productive too has its limits. There is a point of negative return and over years of always going, going, going I had hit that point. I was tired. But, I was not allowing myself to be tired. So instead, my mind raced. I must accomplish more, do more, be more, and then… I was nothing. You must recharge and refuel to really shine. Your mind is a machine. Machine’s need to be turned off from time to time to function at their full capacity, which brings me to my next point...
1. Calm the fuck down (excuse my French)
Calm down. Calm down and breathe. You are allowed to be turned off. It is okay to have one day without the sticky notes. Your life is not a race of who can complete more the quickest. That is absolute insanity. Enjoy your life. Be cliché and ‘smell the roses.’ Ya know the last time I smelled a rose? Because I sure do not. Life is about more than ‘accomplishments.’ Life is about stopping and smiling not running and checking. Calm down. Calm your mind, breath, head, and space. Do yoga. Drink tea. Do whatever makes you capable of doing nothing. For me, it was taking spa time. Once a week, at least, I would unwind with a face mask, bubble bath, a warm cup of tea and a nail painting session. I would pamper myself and not allow myself to multitask while I was doing it. No phone. No music even. I was just at peace with working to find peace. Calm the fuck down.
1. What I deemed as ‘accomplishments and failures’ versus what accomplishments and failures really were’
I had made up what it meant to be accomplished. I had also made up that I had to reach said accomplishment every single day. Talk about pressure. I believed that if I did not change the globe and stop world hunger by the end of the month, well then what was my life good for anyway? I thought that if I watched Netflix for two hours on a Sunday afternoon, then I had wasted my entire life and would never achieve anything. I know it sounds crazy, but I was/slightly am crazy. I had a false understanding of what it meant to succeed and fail and the false understandings stemmed from my own self-conscious. I was SO hard on myself. I truly thought that people would think I was a lazy piece of garbage if I took a nap. Or if I didn’t run ten miles, but only ran nine, then my whole day was worthless. That is a lot of pressure. That is a lot of unnecessary pressure. Do not convince yourself that you are a failure like I did. It was exhausting. And crippling. Because I only saw it as black or white. For example, if I accomplished eight of my nine Sunday tasks, I failed. I wrote off my ‘achievements’ and sulked. That is not a healthy way to live. Life is not all or nothing. Growth is not all or nothing. In fact, it is the complete opposite. My multi-failing began when I could no longer do it all, so I figured I wasn’t good enough to do any of it.
Do not think that way.
You will end up like I did, believing I sucked at everything all the time. Feeling pressured and drained. Constantly.
Little changes, little lessons, life’s small moments and experiences and accomplishments are HUGE and should not be written off.
1. Single Task
I began to practice single-tasking, which is very frowned upon in our speedy society, however, I found it one of the most beneficial things I have ever done for myself. Single-tasking is similar to the idea of always being present. You can truly only accomplish one thing at a time if you are giving your full attention, heart, soul, and mind into your life and your work. For example, I say my blog means a lot to me. Well, if it means a lot to me and I want to give it my all, I physically, mentally, and spiritually cannot give it my all while doing something else at the same time. Focus on one thing at a time. Breathe one breath in and out at a time. Listen to one person, calling, etc. at a time. Single task the shit out of that ‘to do’ list. I can almost guarantee you will accomplish more at a higher quality level when you only tackle one thing, one day, one breath at a time.
Because anxiety cannot live in the present. It cannot work hand and hand with single-tasking. Only your utmost attention, potential, calm and drive can work with single-tasking.
Try it out.
See for yourself.
Go back and reread this blog post with your new single-task mind.
Did you even realize that I numbered all four steps one or were you too busy reading this, making your grocery list, and worrying about what swimsuit you are going to wear to the beach in June?
Stay present. Stay calm. Single-handedly stay true to you.