Multitasking – Your perfect recipe for mediocrity
- Social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc)
- Soapies (TV, Netflix, News)
- Unidentified goals
No time for instructions: Just mix all ingredients together, whip them, then allow to marinade over 3 days, cook on a slow cooker for as long as desired, then indulge. Voilà!
I watched a TikTok video on WhatsApp, where a young polychronic lady is ironing, drinking juice and reading funny messages on her phone. When the clip begins, she does the three actions successfully since her brain easily locates where the objects are. Amusingly, her brain then plays tricks on her and, instead of taking the glass, she moves the hot iron into her open mouth. Needless to say, she comes back to reality faster than she could have imagined.
These days, it is fashionable, cool, stylish, modern and acceptable to zap. The Urban Dictionary defines ‘zapping’ as changing between two or three TV channels using the remote control without paying much attention to one program in particular. I believe that definition applies to the mindless way we behave towards ourselves and others. Zapping scenarios: walking and reading or sending messages; people busy on their gadgets, deeply concentrating on other appointments while sitting in formal assemblies like places of worship or workshops, a friend sharing a concern while the listener is deep in thought about other issues or conjuring solutions that worked for X in a similar situation in the past.
Poor listening skills have made many men lose valuable friendships and wonderful opportunities. We see responsible adults recklessly driving while busy on their gadgets with their children in the car. What example are they setting for those children? How do children feel when the car is stopped by the cops or when they see the advert “No cellphones while driving”? I see our current situation aptly described in Shakespeare’s Macbeth when the witches say, “Fair is foul and foul is fair”. Everything goes. Everything is acceptable. We seem to have stopped caring.
At face value, multitasking seems cool. However, let me share my experiences with this skill which some of us pride ourselves at being experts in:
It took me 1462 days to find my purpose in life, because I lacked compelling goals and kept postponing, hoping a miracle will fall from the sky. I enjoyed the juggling, toying with different ideas. It felt good, like the pollination relationship between bees and flowers. Needless to say I wasted time, did not achieve much but I am grateful for the lessons this four-year journey taught me.
- Multitasking is great for mundane and routine tasks. We enjoy pushing important tasks to the back burner because the easy ones make us feel good about ourselves to the detriment of quality ones. Our brains protect us so they see the latter as threats since they demand more time, passion, commitment and energy. Being polychronic gives us the ‘adrenalin rush’, although upon reflection, a feeling of emptiness sometimes sets in when one takes stock at the end of the day.
- It tells me that I am disorganised and lack a plan. Lack of discipline shows that I did not set my intentions clearly so I don’t mind selling myself cheaply to the easiest activity.
- It slows down my work because I am not calculating the time I choose to waste in between tasks. Consequently, I produce shoddy work which looks great on the outside but upon closer inspection, I can feel that it could have been better.
- As a teacher, I see students listening to music, studying and responding to messages on their phones all at the same time. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a reality and when you ask what they have been studying, giving a concrete reply is like getting water out of a rock.
- It also tells me I lack the will to commit to a given activity and at the last minute, I want to finish everything quickly. Talk of a 400-meter runner sprinting at the last lap of a race!
- It makes me feel empty inside because I cannot confidently point out what I did with my time. Self-criticism opens the guilt trap, I am ashamed of myself, beat myself up and become anxious, frustrated and depressed. I even play the blame game, by looking for someone to whom I can hand over the baton.
- Accidents are usually associated with multitasking due to a lack of focus: on the road, at work, our young friend above, in the kitchen – putting sugar in place of salt and even with our life goals.
What does science say about multitasking?
Studies suggest that the brain focuses better and is more productive when presented with one activity at any given time. However, in polychronic teams, multitasking can bring in great returns. On an individual basis though, it presents a challenge when we try to create a cheat sheet hoping to outsmart nature – this usually backfires and does not serve us as much as we would love it to.
Juggling tasks reminds me of the old computers we had when internet connectivity was slow and it took 30 minutes or more to connect to the network. Opening a web page, uploading, emailing or printing a file was a mission! I remember how, in our impatience, we would click on many tabs, then click the print button 10 – 15 times for one document hoping that the more we clicked, the faster the document would be printed. Tough luck. The computer records the files in order of arrival and will process them in that order. In the end, we received our 15 copies or so of the same document – 14 of them were good for the bin!
- Studies reveal that polychronic people experience problems like memory impairment, focusing on a new subject and increased stress levels.
- Chronic distraction sets in with time. This means as time goes on, the person may not be able to focus on anything else.
- It easily leads to procrastination, because the brain is primed to know that activities can be completed at the last minute.
3 things to do to avoid multitasking:
- Planning. A plan sets your day; it gives you direction especially if you can visualise it. All things are created twice. If you can see it in your mind first, take the time to nurture it, I guarantee you the product will be excellent.
- Hello mindfulness. Being mindful helps us with focus. Do one thing. This gets your body in a relaxed state, you hear yourself, you notice what is going on around you and you are part of the process – Be centred.
- Be disciplined. Discipline requires that you cut out the noise by avoiding distractions. There is a lot of chattering around us…the media, friends, notifications….. . From adverts to social media, there is too much noise – when this happens, I use certain mantras. Discipline gives me permission to shout at myself. I say “Focus!” “Get back on track, Therese!” “Finish this first!” “No, not now! Just focus!”
- For starters, you can set some small adventures like challenging yourself to a “20-minute rule”. Replace multitasking with giving your undivided attention to one task for 20 minutes before zapping to another. Try catching yourself by using the discipline mantras I suggested above.
4 rewards of focusing on tasks
- Feeling of accomplishment – the pride and joy that swells inside is a feeling one will like to enjoy for a long time. Try challenging yourself to make your bed first thing in the morning. The confidence when talking about the process, gives one a feeling of empowerment.
- Less is more. Ticking that one task off my to-do list gives me peace of mind that this is a job well done, quality is guaranteed and I can proudly endorse my signature on the task.
- You model the example you would love your family to follow. Take one activity at a time. Children learn from our actions and our words. They are watching us and we will not like to overhear them telling on to friends how disorganised and confused we look when rushing to meet a deadline.
I am not sure whether our friend with the cellphone and juice is still in hospital, but one thing I am sure of; that accident could have been avoided had she chosen to allocate time to each of her tasks and prioritise them: first to drink her juice, then to iron her clothes and finally to surf the web.
#concentration #goalsetting #kidslifestudio #seed2seedskidslifestudio #mindfulness #changemindset
Therese Ndjeh is a Brand Ambassador for the Kids Life Studio who is passionate about helping children discover their identity and having a change mindset.