I’ve often thought of myself as a good multitasker. Surely, being able to do at least two things at once makes you instantly more productive? It makes a great sell for your skill set in job interviews and also comes in pretty handy for daily life. Having worked in an office where the phone rarely stopped ringing, it was useful to be able to have a conversation while creating a spreadsheet and eavesdrop on what was going on in the office at the same time.
Even now, I’m pretty pleased with my juggling skills. Being able to cook dinner, respond to emails, run a bath and WhatsApp my best friend on the other side of the world simultaneously is often how my evenings pan out. Of course, it’s not just me that likes to juggle. Some of my friends are attempting to launch businesses or run blogs, or do a little bit of freelance photography – some of them already with full time jobs. Others are attempting to fill their hours with endless productivity, from long-distance university courses to volunteering opportunities.
Returning home from holiday made me think about how often I multitask and whether or not it is doing me much good. Bali is a particularly laid-back place and going there allowed me to feel the most relaxed I’d felt in years. On holiday, it’s easy to switch off – focusing on the sound of the sea or the taste of the food is something I can savour, doing one thing at a time.
Back home, things are different. Drinking coffee and reading a book is simple enough – the two complement each other. But what about watching a documentary while I’m typing out some freelance work? What about reading a magazine while simultaneously scanning my Twitter feed? I check Instagram while I’m eating my breakfast, digest podcasts when I’m out running and even do my internet shopping when I’m making a meal.
Although multitasking isn’t harming me, focusing on one thing is a lot less stressful. I’m rarely fixated on one single thing and because of that, it can often feel like I’m battling against a ticking clock. Pressurising myself to be as productive as possible means I find it difficult to find peace – or at least not the kind of peace you can experience on a beach in Bali.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve tried to step back and focus. Instead of reaching for my phone each time I get a notification, I’ve begun to switch it off and direct all my attention to my favourite television programmes. I’m trying to write without background noise, to cook without the pressure of a lingering conversation and to run without attempting to absorb the latest TED talk. It is proving harder than I thought – I still have to stop myself from aimlessly checking social media each time I get a free moment. Instead, I intend to enjoy those free moments and focus on one thing at a time. Wish me luck.