Women are supposed to be good at multi-tasking.
I am a woman. Have been for quite a while now.
I am NO good at multi-tasking.
Therefore, either my bullies were partially right about my status as a woman. Or the above generalization about women is false. I would very much like to encourage another cliche and ask all women reading this to mention if they, or someone female they know, aren’t as good at multi-tasking as pop psychology would have us believe. Women Non-Multitaskers Unite.
I had some extremely tedious work to do the last few weeks. I barely slept 2-3 hours every night, the rest was spent struggling with it. I tried playing music to ease the pain, especially late at night when everything goes quiet and anyone with a tired brain and an overactive imagination starts to imagine creatures coming to get them. But, I just couldn’t do it. The music interfered every time. If my instincts had to choose, no matter the hour or the impending doom of incomplete work, it will always go for the music first. Pleasure, yes. Boredom, no. Human, check. Woman, hope so.
I can only guess, but I do believe there is some truth to the idea of women as natural multi-taskers. They must have had to evolve that way, even in the hunting-gathering days, or when we lived in packs. There’s just so much to do. I often tell myself I accomplished “nothing” in a day, but if I had to go through every detail, a lot will stack up. But, the idea is not to do a lot of things, but to do, at least, two simultaneously.
Again, that doesn’t seem much of a stretch. Most of us find it hard to meditate, or be in a mindful state, because there’s a lot going on. Even the dullest, most repetitive environments are providing stimuli for all your senses. And your brain, whether consciously or not, keeps processing information that has come before, and anticipating what is to come. And then, there are your dreams and desires. Things that are not immediately affecting your person, perhaps bear no connection to you in terms of any external validation you get, but matter to you a great deal. Like the music you play, the YouTube videos you watch, the idle things you talk about with your friends, partner, family etc.
In short, I maybe able to do only one thing with my hands at a time, but there’s still a lot going on in my mind. Even when I sleep. Oh yes, your brain doesn’t “rest” even then, even though you may not be actively dreaming. Even when you are as still as possible, there’s probably a lot going on with you.
But, some of us choose to multi-task, or fall into it. I don’t need to explain this any further to all the parents reading this. Who knows, I might become a multi-tasker if I get to have the privilege of being a parent. Motivation is key. If you can motivate yourself to do it, like listen to an audio recording of your lecture notes as you prepare dinner, or have a conversation with your friend as you repair a broken home appliance, you have to be willing to do either.
Motivation and emotion are governed by the same area of the brain. You can’t do something, anything, unless you can convince yourself to do it. I hated my recent, all-consuming task, and I was looking for motivation in all the wrong places. I was looking for motivation in rewards. I thought music would ease the pain. Looking up restaurants on the Zomato App would give me something to look forward to once it was over. Even the sight of my bed, which is the worst possible motivation when you are trying to stay awake at 4 in the morning.
What I should have done was what I used to do at a simpler time. A time when MTV and VH1 made music harder to come by (literally, for by the time I was watching MTV, it hardly played music). I would do a certain amount of work, and then treat myself to a music video, which I already knew when it was going to be played, having noted the air time on Sunday (that’s how video rotation worked on MTV India in those days). The anticipation of music works better than the gratification of it.
Do you multi-task? What’s your secret? What are the tasks you have to juggle?
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