In our forever-busy hyper-connected lives it seems like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things you need to one at a time.
So the only option, the only way to keep up, is to divide your focus, energy and creativity amongst all these demands, and become an efficient multi-tasking machine.
A great solution, right? Not exactly.
In our creative lives for example, this equates to taking on a dozen different projects at a time, and frantically flitting between them, throwing on them the little inspiration and creativity we can muster before hurtling on to the next one to give that equally little quality time and attention.
You might think you’re being very productive by having so many projects on the go, and keeping them all spinning in the air at once.
But how good are any of them, truthfully?
How many of them are work that you are incredibly passionate about, greatly enjoying, and dedicating the time and focus they deserve? Any?
Multi-tasking is a myth. Not only that, it’s an insane way to try to be creative.
And it’s slowly destroying your creativity, diluting it, numbing it, and criminally under using your talents and potential.
We can only do one thing well at a time. We’re just not designed to be machines.
Some of my favourite creative pursuits are writing poems, salsa dancing and cooking. If I give any of them my full attention, the results are more often than not very pleasing. I love doing them all. But only if I have the space to love doing them.
If I tried to write, dance and cook at once, it’d be impossible. But that’s just the literal, most obvious way that multi-tasking doesn’t work.
Say, one evening, I want to cook a delicious meal, write a few new poems, and go out salsa dancing. There’s no way I can give my full focus to them all.
If I’m cooking, I can’t relax and enjoy it fully (both the preparing, cooking and eating) knowing I’m watching the clock the whole time because I’m off to dance soon. Then if I did go dancing and all I was thinking about was the poems I wanted to write when I got back, I wouldn’t be fully immersed in the dancing. Which I’d already arrived at in a hurry, having rushed my meal before and not enjoyed very much.
I’d end up frustrated at having spent an evening not really enjoying any of the three activities I tried to squeeze in.
If however, I decided to do just one of these activities in an evening, then afterwards see how I felt about doing something else, I would enjoy them many times more. I’d allow myself the space to become fully engaged and fully absorbed in the moments at hand, live them as fully as possible.
Ultimately, we’re all searching for what makes us come alive, what makes us catch our breath, smile a huge smile and say: “Yes! This is what life is about. This is me, this is what I love to do.”
It doesn’t need to be something that’s on your own or entirely selfish, and for most of us our best times involve other people, and helping and connecting with others in some way.
What’s important is giving yourself that opportunity to fully appreciate and enjoy how you’ve chosen to spend your time. You won’t do it with multi-tasking.
Do you want to look back over your creative life on your deathbed and see a vast collection of wonderful experiences, highly memorable moments and art that you gave your full self to, art you can be proud of?
Or see only a dissonant blur of thousands of days that looked the same, all lost in half hearted attempts to give attention to one thing before rushing off to another and another, your cupboards heaving with a sorry looking set of half finished unloved projects?
It’s not difficult to reject multi-tasking and take the better option:
Pick one thing. Set some time aside. Enjoy that one thing as best you can. Then do the same for something else another time.
They don’t need to be radical life altering projects. Sitting down for half an hour to write a letter to a friend, or bake some gorgeous cookies, or sketch the view from your window can be so rewarding if you give them your full time, attention and focus. They become not shallow rushed activities, but instead each miniature meditations in a tiny area of your life.
In fact one definition of meditation is “A devotional exercise of contemplation…”
That’s what you’re doing when you focus on one thing, you’re devoting your time, energy, creativity, everything you have, to that single activity. There’s no other way to appreciate something more fully. And after all, isn’t life about feeling engaged and alive, appreciating each experience and moment as fully as we can?
Forget the insanity of multi-tasking, it’s dumbing down and destroying your creativity.
Focus on what’s important, pick one thing, enjoy it, give it your all. Your creativity deserves, you deserve it, we deserve it.
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