I leave this as a permanent note to myself to remember that I can never be perfect, but I can stop being so imperfect: Two Things at Once, No More. I will never give any one thing my fullest attention, but I shouldn’t try and give my attention to everything. I right now have nine windows open and two real windows open. If I only left the real window and this one open, I would be able to focus: I am writing a blog post, and I am listening to the world.
I am not a multitasker, I am a bi-tasker. Doing two things at once lets me battle the feeling of insecurity that comes from only doing one task: I am aware at all times that the task I am doing is not the only thing there is, that failure in one domain might just mean more success in another.
I like taking two roads through life, like one isn’t enough. I like the idea of alternate universes, or different threads in time , because these notions require you to imagine the choice you took as the most important of many. I like that today I went to not one but two restaurants for dinner; I liked that I met a writer and that I also didn’t meet him. Not having met him, not having eaten that, makes all the things that did happen so much more potent, important because of the way they emerged out of the possible.
I do two things at once because I like remembering I have the option. I like running toward every possibility, doors shutting on me as I slide one foot into each realm. I like writing when I shouldn’t be because it reminds me that writing is a choice I make every time I do it. Will this writing I’m doing affect the way I’m doing my other thing, the thing that is sometimes more important? I think it will, and I think that’s why I do it.
For all intents and purposes, let it be known that the other task I was doing while writing this blog post was not listening to the world outside my window. It was listening to The Bachelorette.
I’ve found that if I start something I am often tempted to finish it. So I’ve started to roll balls out in all directions and this way I have balls rolling. Then I have to catch them and finish them. Perhaps this is a great explanation for the anxiety that sits in the pit of my stomach.
(This post was started at 9:40 a.m. in the middle of an education class on Classroom Assessment).
Now I am home this evening and I have this, among other balls rolling. I am rolling in balls I’ve set into motion: I am in school and I have to write a novel and I also have to learn the ukulele, start submitting short stories I haven’t written to publications and I also have to work every Saturday. I wish I could juggle, but it seems I’m playing an imaginary version of that soccer drill where you shoot a lot of balls at a goalie at once and they’re like okay, one at a time.
I love multi-tasking. It makes me feel like I’m doing everything. But it rarely allows me to feel like I’ve done anything. A combination of these two things makes me continue it: not feeling like I’ve done anything makes me keep going; feeling like I’m doing everything keeps me wanting more. Multi-tasking is my drug, my generation’s drug.
So what do we do when we become students or teachers or lawyers or writers (or another job, name another job) and all day we feel like we’re so close to doing everything but it still feels like nothing gets done? What do we do when we get busy?
I propose that we keep rolling those balls out. The tasks we set into motion are our hopes and dreams materialized. You know how people keep talking about dream boards? About “The Secret”? This is it: the multi-tasker has found a spiritual home. Instead of embarking on tasks, we write them down, and by writing them down we’ve committed ourselves to them.
I’ve been learning the ukulele, sign language, trying horseback riding and writing excellent short stories for years. They’ve all been written on pieces of paper, little tasks to set to the wind whenever I feel I haven’t yet done enough today. Or whenever I feel like I’m doing too much: I need something else. I don’t necessarily do these things from start to finish, but I do get them started – that way I go back to them to finish.