This week I finally realised that it’s OK to admit that you’re not capable of doing absolutely everything at once.
This is not a radical discovery but, in a world where relentless multitasking is a way of life, acceptance of this fact does feel like one.
If you’re anything like me, the only way that you will come to accept that you’re not a failure because you can’t manage to be in 55 places, achieving 307 things at once, is if somebody else says it to you.
Sit with a friend or a family member and list all of the things you’re currently achieving, everything you’d still like to do, and then berate yourself for being lazy because you aren’t managing to do it all. Now take a look at their face. They will shake their head. They may even laugh at the absurdity of what you’re saying. And then they’ll look you in the eye and tell you to calm down. You’re doing plenty, they’ll say, have a bloody lie down.
You need to decide what your priorities are, and then to give yourself permission to do those things without feeling bad about it. It doesn’t mean you can’t do additional stuff too, just that the bulk of your time, energy, thought, money – whatever – goes in that direction and you don’t beat yourself up for it. You don’t waste brain space feeling inadequate.
My current number one and two are: freelance writing – doing the work I have, and finding more; and, as soon as we get our sh*t together, attempting to find somewhere new to live in London. I will be doing plenty of other stuff too – eating, sleeping, going to work, eating nectarines over the sink, setting aside time to make incomprehensible notes that might one day turn into a story, consuming passionfruit margaritas, talking to strangers who definitely didn’t ask to hear about my baby nephew… oh, and maintaining relationships with my husband/family/friends/Coronation Street – but these are the life goals that I need to be making most progress with right now.
One of the most useful things I’ve learnt since becoming an adult, working person, is that if you attempt to do too many things in one go, you’ll either end up getting nothing done, or you’ll do all of them badly. Focus is everybody’s best friend; I just wish she’d come round more often than her pals Distraction, Procrastination, and I Wonder What Everybody’s Up To On Facebook? We just have to be strict with ourselves. As I’ve written before, if I didn’t have my egg timer, I don’t know how I’d get anything done.
Even more powerful than not physically attempting to do it all, is giving yourself the mental freedom to stop the internal dialogue that tells you that you’re failing. That voice that says, well yes, maybe you are doing this piece of work, and meeting this deadline, and fitting in some quality time with your loved ones, but how can you enjoy yourself knowing that you haven’t also written a best-selling novel? How can you let yourself have a holiday when you could be auditioning Hollywood actors for the film adaptation of your memoir? OH YEAH YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN ONE YET – UNPACK YOUR SUITCASE AND GET BACK TO YOUR DESK.
My opinion is this: if you’ve already got so much on your plate, why would you add self-criticism to your to-do list too? This is all about being realistic, and chucking in a couple of hours a day to berate yourself because you’re not Wonder Woman is the precise opposite of that.
So let’s be a little bit kinder to ourselves, shall we?
Great. Well, that’s my allotted hour of creativity done for the day, now onto the next thing. But not before I’ve had a little rest. A girl can only do so much, you know.