It’s been a while since I last posted about Productivity for Writers, where we covered Coping in Part 1 and Grounding and Patience in Part 2 but, as you know, life gets in the way. So much has happened in recent months. We finished homeschooling at the end of June and my girls and I couldn’t be happier. Summer really began for us when school ended despite having had beautiful days before we finished all the lessons we needed to cover. In the month of July, we spent it trying to enjoy the nice weather under new conditions laid out by the dangers of COVID-19 and the province’s ordinances. We have been going out for walks, spotting empty splash pads in our neighbourhood to enjoy the water, and Facetiming grandma and grandpa as often as we can, as well as friends that the girls miss playing with and seeing.
We are on our way to the six-months mark of COVID-19 having been declared a global pandemic. The not-so-new-normal has been somewhat established. In countries like Canada, where the virus has finally hit the highest peak and is now plateauing, most people are finding creative ways to navigate life as it evolves alongside the stubborn deadly virus, racial protests, political upheavals everywhere, deadly giant hornets, cancelled concerts, sports and vacations plans and an all generalized state of shock we haven’t been able to shake off, yet.
As all this unravels, how are you managing in life? Balancing family, work, mental health, spiritual nurturing? If you’re a writer, are you being able to be productive? Or do you feel crushed under asphyxiating responsibilities, house chores, health concerns, looking after the kids or ageing parents, ill family members or friends, still trying to figure out homeschooling, your work or looking for a new job? What I do know is that it’s been tough for all of us and it continues to be tough.
So, today I want to focus on one simple thing that can make the difference in an unmanageable situation. I want to discuss a myth that many people believe about productivity: the myth of multitasking.
The Reality of Multitasking
Not being an organized person and having to be in charge of a home, then having and raising young kids, moving overseas, studying while tending for a toddler and expecting a baby and working, led me to believe that my greatest skill was my ability to multitask. But after years of attempting to achieve tasks or projects and failing time and again, I realized I had it all wrong. Multitasking is a counterproductive Illusion that, instead of helping, harms productivity. In most cases, it affects the quality of results of the tasks one attempts to complete.
What is Multitasking really
Multitasking, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary is:
1: the concurrent performance of several jobs by a computer
2: the performance of multiple tasks at one time
Nowadays, being able to multitask is considered a great skill to possess. Just think about how frequently the phrase, “ability to multitask” is listed as a requirement for a job.
The worst offenders in multitasking are us, women; we pride ourselves on being great at juggling kids, work, cooking, all at once. Because we still want to do it all, being mothers, wives, having a career. Though men help around the house and with the kids more than men in previous generations, it is us women who still carry more of the weight. This pandemic has exposed it even more. Both men and women are having to work-from-home now, but somehow women end up doing more of the housework and childminding. Especially when the kids are younger. (You can read this very interesting article by Maddie Savage- As working mums perform more childcare and face increased job insecurity, there are fears Covid-19 has undone decades of advancement. But could the pandemic be a catalyst for progress?)
Unfortunately, multitasking adds to this uneven balance. Giving the perception of being more productive. But, in reality, when you multitask, what you’re actually doing is dividing or stretching your attention thin in so many directions that you’re not really doing any of those things to the best of your ability. You are not fully focused or engaged on any particular task. Meaningful completion of tasks is delayed or often have to be repeated.
Let’s imagine you’ve decided to write three novels at the same time because you have multiple ideas in your head. Attempting to multitask this project may take three or four times longer as you constantly move between worlds and characters. On the other hand, a single story will take a fraction of that time. Don’t forget the sense of achievement that comes from finishing a goal.
The Effects of Multitasking
The direct result of this disorganized, chaotic way of tackling, or handling things are:
- The waste of enormous amounts of time
- Mediocrity and low-quality end result of each task, and
- A terrible sense of being out of control that leads to being stressed, frustrated and in many cases upset
What to Do:
First, as a writer, let’s remember that finding time to write in chaos is a luxury. To achieve high productivity and efficiency in your work, get rid of the illusion of multitasking.
In the next part I will show you my how I took a new approach for achieving results.