The concept of multitasking in ‘Real Life’
When I was younger, the term ‘multitasking’ conjured up a vision of a professional woman in a pin-striped suit, sitting at a big desk. Her nails are perfect, she is working on a computer whilst answering a phone, drinking coffee, signing documents and all of this is done calmly and efficiently. She does not even break a sweat.
Most of us probably have similar thoughts when thinking of multitasking. As a wife, mother and student, I find myself having to play multiple roles and so this image in my mind has changed slightly. There have been times when the unpredictability of real life is in stark contrast with the focused, efficient multi-tasker in my mind! These past few weeks,I have received so many queries about how I balance all these roles and so I thought I would write down some of the ideas that help me navigate on this journey.
1. Have a plan.
We are in a frenetic world constantly having our attention divided in a million different ways with phone calls, interruptions and social media. This can often lead us to live from a place of reaction which can cause anxiety. Constantly reacting can be overwhelming if we don’t have a plan. Having a schedule with important dates helps a lot and then you can easily prioritize what needs to be achieved by when. Time with my baby and a call with my husband takes priority so I will schedule that in first. Exams or test dates will be another example of big deadlines I have to work towards. Use whatever form of diary works best for you - digital or paper.
2. Preparation is key.
Now that I have my schedule, I can prepare as efficiently as possible. Easy ways to do this is to pack your gym or baby bag for the week ahead instead of for one session or outing. Try and cook enough food for 3 meals in one go rather than in 3 different timeslots. Prepare your workspace with everything you need, instead of losing precious time setting up your workspace in different locations. I try and make these prep sessions fun - I play music and make it as positive an experience as possible. I also make use of to-do lists - again this could be digital or you could use an inspiring notebook.
3. Multitasking doesn’t mean you have to do everything at the same time.
I still get multiple tasks done in a day but my approach has changed. Society makes us think that we must be able to do it all at the same time but research shows that we are in fact more efficient when we approach each day, one task at a time. The term is called ‘chunking’ and it helps you to focus on tasks for a specific amount of time and then you can switch over to the next task. This helps me stay calm and focused and at the end of the day I am amazed at how much I can get done.
4. Build your support structure.
My support structure is strong and this helps me balance my life. I am very fortunate in having someone who helps out with my little one as well as grandparents who are very involved. This certainly releases a great deal of pressure and it’s important that you create your own. Your network can take multiple forms: your connections (friends and family for support), technological support (applications, schedules or diaries, reminders) and education (books, articles). When I get stuck, I have to ask for help and this happens often. I definitely make mistakes which leads me to my next point.
5. Self-care and letting go of perfection.
I have realized that I need to take care of myself in order to be there for the important people in my life. When you are too tired, too hungry or too busy, you don’t have perspective and everything seems harder. So you have to let go of getting it all 100% right all the time and be content with doing as much as you can. Going to sleep a little earlier, getting fresh air in the morning and enjoying nature - all these good things fill you up and cost you nothing. Cut down the amount of time you spend on social media or the news. This will give you time to reflect on gratitude and even document the good things if you need to!
Ultimately, life is precious and we are all here for a limited time. Multitasking is supposed to be a time saver not a source of stress! We have to give ourselves plenty of space to reflect and grow. Slow down and bask in those meaningful moments with your loved ones - let them nurture and replenish you.
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