I must admit, I am not someone who enjoys being busy. I have never liked the idea of multi-tasking, much less the necessity to engage in it. I am the type of person who does not even like having too many tabs open on my internet browser, it stresses me out. Unfortunately, for years, I thought this just meant I was lazy or not like other people, particularly women, who seem to be able to do two or three things at once. I felt as if I just needed to learn to multi-task better in order to keep up. We live in a society that not only appreciates, but encourages busyness in the form of multi-tasking. It’s almost sacrilege to say you are going to relax or do one thing at a time.
As I have gotten older, I have come to realize my lack of enthusiasm where multi-tasking and busyness is concerned, is not a personal flaw, but just how I am made. I am a hard worker, who puts in the time when I need to, but my preference is to work on one thing at a time, to have time to process it in its entirety, before moving on to the next. My lack of enjoyment in multi-tasking or busyness is not limited to work. I also do not like having numerous social engagements in the course of a week, or a weekend. On the rare occasions that I do engage in a good amount of social activity or work related projects, I try to ensure this period is followed by a few days of calmness and alone time, so I can recuperate. If you haven’t noticed, these are the traits of an introvert. While I do appreciate working and being productive and spending time with loved ones, for me, this has to be balanced with a fairly decent amount of down time. Luckily, over the course of the past few years, research is coming out that suggests our multi-tasking and busy culture is actually counterproductive.
Recent research on the idea of being able to handle two or more things at once is demonstrating that the perceived ability to multi-task is actually a myth. Surprisingly, studies are proving that we are not able to multi-task, save for the very rare occasion. Sounds like a lie? I thought so too, but according Dr. Susan Weinschenk’s Psychology Today article, by trying to multi-task you could actually be reducing productivity by up to 40%. Does trying to multi-task seem worth it now? Didn’t think so. Dr. Weinschenk’s article gives to good tips for helping those who feel the need to multi-task, yet want to ensure that their productivity remains intact. Some of Dr. Weinschenk’s suggestions, I had already began to implement in my own life and professional career, in order to better accommodate my needs.
One thing that helps me when I am feeling stressed trying to multi-task or just busy in general, is taking periodic breaks. Even back when I was working in an office setting, whenever I became overwhelmed, I would take a five minute trip to the office kitchen to make myself a cup of hot tea. Simply getting up and walking away from your desk for a few minutes can be helpful, and if you’re like me, sipping on warm tea can be very relaxing. Now that I am a freelancer, I still take breaks throughout the day, when things are busy and I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed. These mini-breaks help me to take a step back, decompress for a little bit, and come back to my work with a fresher frame of mind.
What are some ways you can take care of yourself when you are busy at work or with other obligations? Are you a fan of multi-tasking or have you never liked the idea? Do you feel multi-tasking makes you more or less productive?