Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

On Friday I talked about how multitasking can be a curse. Killing 2 or more options with one stone has become the standard. I try to distinguish between juggling many tasks that are ongoing and multitasking. To me, the latter is trying to juggle more than one thing at a time, like doing your day job while texting, checking email, and doing other things simultaneously.

Juggling ongoing tasks giving each your full attention can be better.

For example, before I had my first book published, I had many ideas for topics to write about and began to develop a bunch of books. I jumped from one to another, never making any serious headway for any of them. For years I worked on many books. An idea for one book led to an idea for another and another. All in one day! I’d have the files for several titles opened at once as I worked on them all. My brain raced and raced, but I finally realized it wasn’t in a good way. I couldn’t focus well on any one of them, in addition to doing the work that earned my living then. I thought that I was being productive doing so many things at once. But I was multitasking in circles.

So I wrote down everything I wanted to do, all the books I wanted to write, and chose the one I felt was best to do first. Since I saw a need in the music industry for a book that specifically explained how to get a record deal, I decided to write The Real Deal: How to Get Signed to a Record Label first. No multitasking. Just focus on getting that book out. Since I enjoyed the other titles too, I allowed myself some time each day to work on 2 others too. But my priority was one book. Shortly after I got my first book deal with Billboard. By then the book was almost done so I scanned my list to see what to prioritize next.

My editor at Billboard pushed me to do another title quickly. I was dying to finish All Men Are Jerks Until Proven Otherwise, so I decided to write that and Start & Run Your Own Record Label at the same time. Since all three of those book deals were in a one-year period, I had a lot to cram into the time I was given. So, I put everything else aside to write instead of juggling even more. I worked on *Jerks * as I researched the music book. At separate times! I made rules for checking email and told friends I’d be unavailable a lot during the eight months I had to complete my second and third books.

I wanted to get these books published more than almost anything and was very willing to give up or postpone the many other things I did. There was no was I would sabotage my books by trying to multitask. I curtailed a lot during that time.

Self-empowerment includes taking control of what you do and how you do it. Getting caught up in the age of speed-living is your CHOICE. I’m choosing to slow down a bit. While I still do some multitasking, I’m more conscious of how doing too much can sabotage the quality of what I need to do. I know my writing needs my complete attention if I want my books written properly. You can slowly ease yourself out of bad habits if you CHOOSE to. You can:

* Make lists of what needs to be done. Seeing it on paper eliminates having to juggle it all in my head. I sometimes have 2 pads—one for things that need to get done faster and the other for things I need to do but aren’t so time sensitive that I can do when I have a free window or want a break from the priority task. I enjoy crossing what I finish off.

* Force yourself to take an exercise break every day. Exercising is one of the few things I can’t multi-task. It’s easy to think you can skip it when time seems too tight to “waste.” But it’s too beneficial not to do. So I keep it on my list of priorities every day. It decreases stress, keeps me fit and is also a great time to sort out ideas and decisions. In version of multitasking, I’ve begun to talk to God and do affirmations when I run. ? So I come home feeling physically and spiritually renewed, often with some good ideas for my writing.

* Set boundaries on what you say yes to. No one is Wonder Woman or Man. I’ve set limits on what I can do without sacrificing myself or the quality of my work. You CAN say no to things!

* Make an effort to keep your workspace neat and organized. When I see piles of paper around I go through them and think of other things to do. It also makes me feel overwhelmed. I keep things in folders and it makes me feel more organized and also keeps things I might get distracted with out of sight.

* Delegate some responsibilities to others. This was a hard one for me since I knew I do everything the best. ? Slowly I’ve begun accepting offers of help or bringing in an intern to do some of the less important tasks.

* Give yourself permission to relax. Take some time for you—read a book, take a leisurely bath, go for a walk, talk to a friend, or whatever calms the waters for you. NO multitasking allowed during these times!

* Make sleep a priority. Busy multitaskers often sacrifice sleep time in order to work more. That’s an unloving attitude! You need enough sleep—enough by a health professional’s standard, not what you get used to having. Studies show that 7-8 hours is optimum. When you sleep well, you wake up refreshed and can actually get more done.

You can make multitasking a healthier endeavor by being more conscious of how it affects you and your work. Then find ways to pare it down to a level that doesn’t leave you stressed or lowering your standards. I’m writing 4 books at one time now and taking my own advice. I make schedules for each and try not to jump back and forth too much. I’m not that far from finishing Nice Girls on Top, so I’ve lowered its priority. Will do the new edition of one of my music books in bits and pieces. Then I’m collaborating on 2 others, which are my bigger priorities. I’ve put some of the smaller projects I sometimes do on the back burner so I can focus on the books.

When I plan ahead and prioritize, it works so much better. If you consider yourself a multitasker, redefine what that means to you. Give your electronic communications a rest. Do a self-check to see how the stress of juggling tasks at once makes you feel. When you learn to slow down a bit, you can feel better and get more of what counts done more effectively.

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