Recently I’ve been coming to the realisation that multitasking is the world’s biggest hoax. All my life I have been flaunting my multitasking abilities and diverse skills. I am so many things and people at the same time; an illustrator, a graphic designer, a web designer, a conceptualiser, a photographer, a photo-retoucher, and that is only the list of things that bring bread to my table. I’m also a partner, an occasional housewife and not too bad of a cook, a sister, a friend, an amateur writer, a personal assistant and the list goes on and on. I’m so many things at once but have often wondered, am I good enough at anything to just do that one thing, be that one person, at least for a little while? And I think I’ve done enough soul searching by now to be able to answer that question with a big fat NO.
Am I neglectful? Undetermined? Unorganised? Do I lack vision? That is what I thought at first until I started noticing that many of us are drowning in the same waters. Day after day we push our passions aside for the sake of career advancement or some other priority, dubbing our personal lives and ambitions as less important. In the process, we have created so many guilt complexes and mental disorders that we’re losing track. We have lost the ability to focus, to commit and to understand the true meaning of perfecting something. We forgot how to enjoy little successes, how to be patient and persistent. And we’ve done all of this because we fell victims for one of the greatest lies of our time, that we are all supposed to multitask at any given time. That juggling responsibilities, hobbies, passions, relationships and interests is vital for our advancement as a race. That not only do we have to do so many things at the same time, but we also need to be good at all of them.
Let me lay it out for you like this. You’re in your mid or late 20’s and have finally managed to focus on career. It’s your time to shine. You have most of your lunches at your desk or the office kitchen, and often have to cancel on your friends and family. Work is your everything; it’s how you define yourself. When people ask you who you are you usually introduce yourself by stating what you do for a living. You find comfort in your determination and keep repeating to yourself that this is only temporary. And yet you are plagued with restlessness, constantly feeling like something’s missing, haunted by images of successful, fit and popular peers who somehow seem to “have it all” while you’re not even close to having anything. Guilt is eating you inside out while your yoga mat continues to serve as a dust collector. So what is wrong with you?
First of all, let me point out that if this scenario continues for more than ten years then you might be borderline workaholic (mostly talking to myself here), but let’s ignore this for a second. Truth is, there is nothing wrong with you, or me or any of us. I think that if you’ve decided to focus on your career and it’s your passion in life or will somehow help you get closer to one, then good for you. Why do we always think that we need to be good at everything at all times? Constantly explaining our choices in life to ourselves and to others? I constantly feel that our perception of who we are and what we do is completely distorted. Parents are guilted for over-working and hard workers are guilted for not considering becoming parents, artists are pressured into finding a “real job” and artists with real jobs are looked down on for not perusing their “passion”. And in our effort to satisfy everyone, including ourselves, we decide to juggle, dropping the balls one at a time.
I have recently stumbled upon a very valuable piece of information:
“ The word priority came into the English language in the 1400’s, it was singular. It stayed singular for 500 years. Only in the 19th century did we pluralize the term and started talking of priorities. As if you can have multiple prior things. Prior means prior, it means one thing. And somehow by changing the word we thought we could sort of twist reality.” (Greg McKeown, the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”).
We multitask as an attempt to form some kind of balance between all of our priorities, when in fact it is only possible to have one prior thing. So when faced with the predicament of setting priorities straight perhaps it’s better to decide on just one thing, focus on it for as long as it takes, succeed and enjoy the success or fail and learn from the mistakes. And as I clear my desk, say goodbye to my friends and pack my life in cardboard boxes I find myself thinking, what might my priority be? And can I truly silence the guilt growling in my own stomach about all the things I keep setting aside for later once and for all?