I have never seen myself as clumsy but after I broke the third precious item belonging to my housemate, she took me one side and asked whether it might be beneficial for me (and her possessions) if I slowed down and practised mindfulness a little more concertedly.
She made a good point. Since I’d decided to simultaneously change career, relocate and sell my flat, I had been spinning a lot of plates with varying levels of success leading to both metaphorical and literal broken china. I had always felt that as a woman and a teacher, multi tasking was in my DNA but increasingly it was starting to feel like the enemy, setting me up for stress and failure.
Earlier this week, the same topic came up with my excellent Joy As An Act of Resistance group. When I suggested my theory that multi tasking was making a mug of us, they agreed. One member’s cousin had a theory. Multi tasking is a staple of most women’s lives, particularly when they are a mother but also in relation to the jobs that women do more commonly than men (administrative and secretarial occupations; caring, leisureand other service occupations; education; sales and customer-service, according to the House of Commons briefing paper Women in the Economy, 2020). Although in the modern workplace, multi tasking could be said to be more generally on the increase, we just don’t expect it of men in the same way that we do of women. Women routinely pride themselves on their ability to multi task and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard both men and women laughing about men’s ‘inability’ to do so. But what good does multi tasking do us and is it actually another thing used to hold women back?
When was the last time that you fully focused on one thing to the exclusion of all others? Without simultaneously keeping up with your emails? Or seeing to the needs of your kids? Or feeling that you have to respond immediately to a WhatsApp thread whilst emptying the dishwasher and cooking the tea?
When we multi-task:
We don’t tend to get joy from what we are doing because we’re not present; we have already moved onto the next task in our heads.
We don’t have the opportunity to stop and give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done as we are too busy doing something else.
Things get done to a more basic standard because and we are less productive, meaning less opportunity for enjoyment, achievement and celebration.
We end up never feeling expert – jack of all trades master of none. That delight in fully immersing yourself in one thing can never be achieved.
We feel that none of the things we are responsible for doing are actually that important. One member of the group commented that it takes real confidence to suggest that what you are doing is important enough to take your time over.
We often ended up motivated by guilt (I must get everything done or I’ve failed) and resentment (look at all the things I have to manage). Neither is conducive to a sense of joy or achievement.
So starting today, I will be developing the art of single tasking. If you’re interested, this is a good starting point. https://blog.rescuetime.com/single-tasking/I’m starting by putting my phone out of reach on my way home so that I can concentrate on my walk rather than looking up and realising I’ve got halfway home without noticing. I’d love to know what you think.
And if you’re interested in exploring other ways to make sure there’s more joy in your life, watch this space for details of my new #DailyJoy Facebook page and the next iteration of my Joy As An Act of Resistance course, coming soon.