Creativity Killers Series: Episode 1: Multitasking

Painted Pumpkin with black hair.

This is your brain on multitasking.

In honor of Halloween this month we are going to talk about creativity killers and doing things that scare us. Dun dun DUN. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Also, we’re going to give you ideas about how to deal with these killers and how to move past them.

Our first creativity killer is Multitasking. Multitasking seems to be a way of life these days. A lot of people are very proud of how many different things they can juggle and do at one time. If you’re looking to open those creative channels, have less stress, and enjoy life more, the multitasking has to go. Or at the very least it can’t be a way of life for you.

When you think you’re multitasking what’s really happening is that your brain is having to stop and start tasks over and over again very quickly. When you look at one thing, your brain concentrates on that thing, but as soon as you look away your brain has to stop thinking about the first thing and move over to the second. If you’re doing three or four things at once your brain gets exhausted, and so do you. While you’re doing all of this bouncing around, you’re unable to really concentrate on any one thing fully. That means each thing that you’re doing is suffering at least a little. 

Multitasking is also a form of procrastination.

Why do so many people multitask their way through life?

Some people are addicted to multitasking. They can’t sit still. If they stop, even for a minute, they feel lazy, useless, or stressed. These feelings come up because when we finally slow down and give our mind a break, it gives our inner thoughts time to shine through; inner thoughts that sometimes we’d rather not acknowledge. We would much rather just keep shoving those emotions down and covering them up with busyness. The problem is, those emotions have to arise somewhere at some time. They often show up as a heart attack, exhaustion, or depression and anxiety. It’s much better to slow down, take the time you need to process those emotions, and then move on happier and healthier. Again, I know this is much easier said than done, but still so important.

Some people multitask because they feel like they have to, or because they have overcommitted to doing things. Sometimes it’s because they feel like they are not enough if they aren’t doing everything. Sometimes they are trying to prove themselves. The list goes on and on. These are all pretty deep issues that really warrant more discussion, but for now I just want to mention these things to give you ideas about what could be making you feel like you have to multitask.

If I can plant the seed, then hopefully we can all do a little more self-reflection and figure out our own reasons behind why we push ourselves so hard. Then we can take small steps each day to change our ways.

So how do you break the multitasking spiral?

Stop it. Just stop multitasking.

Ok. Problem solved. See ya next week.

Totally kidding. Although it would be nice if it were that easy.

It’s going to take time, and some effort, but it is possible.

The first thing to do is to narrow down what is actually important to you. If you make a list of everything you do each day, then mark the things on that list that are the most important for you to get done, what would those things be? If something on the list is just on there because you feel obligated to do it, scratch it off the list. Anything that doesn’t bring you joy, that doesn’t help you get to where you want to be in life, scratch it off the list.

Once you find out what is important to you, start saying no to commitments that aren’t in line with what you want for your life.

Next, be realistic about how much time it takes you to do things each day. All too often I see people who schedule themselves into a corner because they have unrealistic expectations about how long it will take them to accomplish tasks. Also, give yourself time in between to get where you’re going, or to switch gears in between tasks. You can’t schedule a class from 4-5 and then a class from 5-6 if you have to rearrange the room in between the two classes. You’ve started off the second class late from the very beginning, which means the rest of the class will be rushed and the need for multitasking will be more necessary to get everything done.  Scheduling our lives is the same. If you don’t allow yourself time in your schedule to get from point A to point B then you’re perpetually late and often forced to do multiple things at once to get everything finished.

Desk with laptop, book, and phone.

When you start going about your day, work hard to do one thing at a time. If you check e-mails first thing when you get to work, only check your email. Then move on to the next thing. I know that sometimes you get pulled away from things by other people. If that happens, help them how you have to, then turn your attention back to your e-mail until your finished. This is not an easy thing to do at first, especially for those that are pros at multitasking, but doing this gives your brain time to concentrate on each task.

It also allows you to slow down and see the world around you a little more. It will take your stress levels down drastically. You will find that you can check more things off of your to-do list because you’re actually focusing and doing each task a little more quickly.

Are you a professional multitasker? Do you tend to take on more than you can feasibly handle? This week sit down and figure out what’s important, make a plan to do only those things, and work hard at focusing on one thing at a time.

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