Category Archives: Multi-Tasking
Hello, my name is Jeanette and I’m an organizing freak. Yes, I admit it. I can not function in chaos. I’m a planner as well. I have to know all my steps, my master to-do list, my map so-to-speak. I have always been that way and I am finally comfortable enough and proud to say that I will always be that way. We all operate and function in different ways. Just as people learn via different methods, people can also thrive (or not thrive) in various environments.
For years, nay almost a decade, I thought that something was wrong with me, on why I couldn’t succeed in doing things, why others succeeded when I didn’t, why I consistently felt stressed out and not myself. Part of it was those people that I thought were my mentors and while they were (and still are) amazing people which I learned a lot from, they consistently told me one thing over and over again which seriously hindered me…they told me “quit planning and just do”. While that may work for most people, I am certainly not most people and it definitely did not work for me. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized that.
I was bumbling along in my career. Trying to succeed in this, trying to succeed in that, with zero luck. I was attempting the “just do”, but I didn’t feel like myself and when you don’t feel like yourself, you definitely lack self-confidence. And when you don’t have self-confidence, well…everyone can tell. I didn’t feel strong or sure of myself. I constantly second-guessed myself. I consistently let fear of the unknown get the better of me. And I think that the biggest thing for me is the fear of the unknown. Heck, I get ridiculously uncomfortable driving in new places unless I’ve reviewed the route via Google Maps at least a half dozen times. I need to know the route, the back up route and the back up route for the back up route. The same is true of my life.
I make plans and then I play devil’s advocate to come up with a few back-up plans just in case. I’m constantly joking around that if you create a back up plan, then you won’t need it, but if you don’t have a back-up plan, then that’s when you’ll need it. Yeah, I joke about it, but I really truly believe it to the core. It calms me, it soothes me. Knowing I have a plan B and a plan C, allows me to relax about plan A, not worry so much about it, have more self-confidence about it and you know what? I very rarely have to use plan B and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to use plan C. It’s just so comforting to me knowing that they are there.
And that works for me. It gets rid of a lot of the chaos (I’ll never get rid of all of it, nor would I want to as chaos does provide that air of excitement), but most importantly it leaves me with a calmer mind that allows me to succeed in my project du jour.
Now for those naysayers who are thinking to themselves (or even out loud), “Sure, you’re a great planner, but plan all you want, nothing happens until you do something”. Here’s where I take my planning to the “doing” level. Once I have a gameplan, I set it up into teeny tiny, succinct to-do lists. I mean like ridiculously tiny and succinct (google such-and-such to brainstorm, pick top 3 ideas from google brainstorm session, create a gameplan for each top 3 ideas from google brainstorm session-yes, those have been actual to-do items for me). Then I take those to-do items and add them into my calendar task list for the appropriate day that it should be done on. If a to-do item doesn’t or can’t have a due date, then that means that I need to re-evaluate it in my overall gameplan and tweak it to where it can have a due date. Everything in my gameplans ultimately have due dates. That’s how I can take my planning self and turn it into a doing self. If it’s a project that take two weeks to complete, then I break it down into teeny, tiny bites/tasks that can each be accomplished in one day and then I add all of those to my task list.
Sure, I end up having 40-50 tasks each day to do, but you know what? Over half of those tasks take 5 minutes or less each. And I’m telling you, you definitely feel like you are having a successful day when you are constantly checking off things as completed. And lots of little baby steps can take you really far.
Creating those task lists by due date also help clear my mind in that I only worry about what is on my list for today. I don’t worry about tomorrow or the next day or next week. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something, because as soon as I think of “something that I have to make sure I don’t forget”, I add it to my calendar task list and then I’m free to forget about it until it conveniently pops up in my list on the day it’s due. It’s refreshing and limits my daily stress.
Now, one extremely important thing that I have learned and 100% respect is that not everyone operates like I do. Where I try to avoid chaos, there are others out there that thrive in it, that love it, that fuels them. There are those people who just the thought of a to-do list freaks them out. And it’s very important to know that that’s ok! We all function differently in different ways and in different environments. The key to success, especially when working in groups, is to understand that the way that you do things is not the way that others are going to want to do things. It’s ok to allow each member of a team to do things their way as long as they get to the agreed upon final product. Just as Google Maps has various ways to get somewhere, the same is true of projects.
I guess what I’m trying to say is to embrace who you are and how you work while respecting the way others work. Tolerance like in all areas of life is important. Be tolerant to others but also be tolerant to yourself. That’s the one we typically forget. Let others be themselves, but don’t forget to be yourself as well.
I DO NOT MULTI-TASK! Instead, I practice mindfulness and awareness while I work on a task, then I complete it before moving onto the next one.
Our minds are not meant to do a million things at once. Our minds start racing, get scattered, awareness is gone. We forget things. We mess things up. We snap at people. We get stressed out. There’s a reason there’s the saying, “Can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Concentrating on one task at a time and completing it with mindfulness lets you complete it better, quicker and you won’t feel drained mentally when you are done. When you are finished, your mind will feel refreshed. You will feel awake, in a good mood. You will feel motivated to do more tasks and that is what makes you get more done and of better quality than multi-tasking.
When you multi-task, you stress your mind out. It can’t center if it’s constantly going back-and-forth between various tasks that are all in some stage of incompleteness. But focusing on one task, being mindful and aware while you do it, then completing it allows your mind to let that task go, freeing it up to work on the next task presented to it.
It’s like a computer. They’re advanced, aren’t they! They can do anything, can’t they! But what happens if you try to have too many applications running at the same time? The computer slows down drastically, makes more errors and oftentimes crashes on you. But what happens if you run only one application at a time and let that process finish before starting a new one? All energy is used on that single task and the computer runs superfast, few if any errors and rarely if ever crashes on you. (Not to mention saving you a TON of headaches from a crashed computer!)
The same is true about your brain. Too many tasks at once and you get stressed out, make more errors and more often than not put your mindset into a foul mood which essentially “crashes” you for the rest of the day.
I have no science or independent studies to back myself up on this. Just my own personal experiences. I used to follow the idea that multi-tasking made me more efficient, but I was constantly running around busy, stressed out and in a grumpy mood. (If you don’t believe me, ask my husband! Lol.)
It wasn’t until my first trip to Europe that I experienced a different mindset. No multi-tasking! Be focused, mindful and find pleasure in all you do. I even wrote an essay about those experiences and was top 10 in a nationwide essay contest. That’s how much I believe in this.
Ever since this realization, I’ve been happier and less stressed in my every day life. Of course I have my bad days, who doesn’t? After all I’m human and a female. But I have them less often and I can turn them around quicker. If I start having a day where everything is piling up on me, I’ll pick one task, do it mindfully and it instantly centers me allowing me to focus on the other things that I need to accomplish that day.
So, by now I’m sure I have a bunch of you saying, “Sure, yup, ok. Be mindful during my everyday tasks. Find pleasure in everyday tasks. Where the heck is the pleasure in cleaning a toilet?”
It’s all a mindset. YOU choose how you are going to think about the task and its experiences. It’s all a matter of finding and keeping awareness with everything you do.
- Folding the laundry: feel the textures of the clothing as you fold them; the scent of the warm fabric softener fragrance on the clothes.
- Doing the dishes: the warmth of the water; the softness of the bubbles; the scent of the dish soap; the pleasure in the shininess of a clean dish.
- Mopping the floor: the stretch of your legs and arms as you mop; the scent of the cleanser; the pleasure of a clean floor
- Doing yardwork: the fresh air invigorating you; the smell of green plants; the warmth of the sun beaming down on you; the stretching of your arms and legs as you work
- Bathrooms: I found that cleaning my bathroom in a mindful and aware manner has me cleaning it even better, so good in fact that I now only have to clean my bathroom once every two weeks. How’s that for a time saver!
Here’s one of my favorites: try being mindful while taking a shower and see how you feel afterwards. Feel the warmth of the water; the thickness of the steamy air; the scent of your shampoo and body wash; the sensation of soft bubbles running down your back and into the drain.
Now, you do have to be smart about this whole mindfulness thing. For example, when you do laundry, once the clothes are in the washer, that task (of starting a load of laundry) is complete. It doesn’t mean you then sit in the laundry room and meditate about washing clothes until the spin cycle is done (unless that floats your boat and in that case, Namaste! Lol.) But once you’ve completed that task and found the pleasure in it, let your mind register that task as complete and start another one (and I promise you, you can find pleasure in EVERYTHING you do and if you don’t believe me, leave a task in the comments below and I’ll respond with a pleasure.)
In my personal experience, it used to take me all day to do my household “chores” and even then, it would be 9 o’clock at night and I’d still have things on my list that needed to be done. Doing my chores in a mindful way, most days I have all of my work done by the afternoon. As a reward, I allow myself to spend all of the extra time on myself-reading magazines, going for a walk, playing games with my kids, building my business (which has exploded since my mindfulness revelations), etc. and I get to do it guilt-free and in a good mood.
So, while I can’t take away the fact that my bathroom toilets do need to be cleaned, my kids’ dirty socks do need to be laundered and the caked on/baked on casserole dishes do need to be washed, I can choose to do it mindfully. Concentrating solely on the task at hand, completing it before moving onto the next one and letting the stress of my “chores” roll down my back. And if you ever drop by my house and see me sitting in lotus in my laundry room, you know why. Namaste! 🙂
*Model in photo: Stephanie Leet. “Like” her on Facebook! Photographer/MUAH/Stylist/Art Director: Yours Truly. 🙂