Keeping Focus (or How Not to get Everything Done)

I don’t believe in multitasking.

To me, multitasking means doing many things at once, but only with half the effort and ability I should have invested in them. I prefer to take tasks on one at a time, do that one to the best of my abilities, and then move on to something else. It’s how I get things done very effectively in the day job and it’s how I’ve been keeping anxiety at bay for the 14 years I’ve spent working in a high-stress IT environment.

Not a picture of me, although an accurate representation most days…

There’s no getting past the fact that I have to juggle a full-time job with family life (including being a mother to a 5-year old boy) and everything else I need to do to keep my existential crisis from overwhelming me. This is probably the reason I get so enormously frustrated on days that I have to work overtime, even if for only an hour or so, because it makes the parts of my carefully segmented life bleed into each other.

I can’t control when that happens, but I can control some of the extra things I take on in my free time, most notably my writing habit. (I call it a habit, because it’s not a career (not yet, at least) and it’s not really a hobby – it’s just something I have to do that helps keep me sane.)

But I’ve increasingly noticed a tendency towards trying to multitask writing-related tasks, and then wondering why the hell I’ve been so stressed out lately, to the point where I procrastinate for months on doing edits (that really bring me much joy when I can force myself to sit down long enough to work on more than two sentences at a time) and why I disappear off social media for weeks at a time.

Lately, some of the things I’ve been working on, or trying to work on, or thinking of working on, include:

  • Finishing off edits for Myth Hunter Book 2 Part 2
  • Posting engaging content on my Facebook page
  • Finding something interesting and pretty to post on my Instagram page
  • Writing two flash fiction stories per month
  • Coming up with ideas for blog posts on my writing website
  • Feeling guilty for not blogging on my travel blog
  • Working on two different novellas
  • Learning new software for my super-secret PIP project
  • Creating products for my super-secret PIP project
  • Attempting to do the design and layout for the paperback copy of Myth Hunter
  • Practicing paperback design and layout on A Spark of Reverie first
  • Recording audio for A Spark of Reverie for either YouTube or an audio book
  • Recording audio for Spirit Caller for an audio book
  • Recording a video welcoming sequence for new email subscribers
  • Revitalising my writer’s retreat side business
  • Creating presentations and signup freebies for my writer’s retreat business

When you consider that all of this need to happen in the in-between minutes I have that are not taken up by the day job or my family, it’s no wonder that I often feel so overwhelmed that I hardly get anything done. (Anything but reading, that is – it’s infinitely easier to snuggle up with a book than to try and write your own and market it to the world.)

For me, it’s also remarkably easy to start something, run full steam with it for a while, and then sort of peter out, never actually finishing the thing. It’s probably the reason why I’m so good at writing flash fiction and why my novel is written as a series of novelettes / novellas instead of one long story.

So here’s the deal. Of all of those things on the list, finishing Myth Hunter Book 2 is the most important, and Book 3 after that. None of the other things mean much unless I complete the series and show myself and the world that I can do this. I like to think that I have a few loyal readers who want to know how Ambrose’s adventures turn out, but mostly I want to do it for me – because it makes me happy and it gives me purpose.

I want things to look less like this:

And more like this:

Getting the book written is my main priority. Writing monthly flash fiction pieces is my second priority. Everything else will have to wait for when time and energy become available. If this means only sporadically posting on Facebook, Instagram and the blog, then you’ll know why. The PIP project and the writer’s retreat are important to me too, but not as important at this time.

It’s all about focus.

Not everything will get done. But the most important things will, and they’ll have all of my energy behind them, and they will be so much better for it.

How do you get things done? Are you a thriving multitasking machine or do you, like me, prefer to take things on one at a time? What are your main priorities right now?

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’m the same as you! One thing at a time, otherwise it all gets too overwhelming. I live by to-do lists and scheduling apps. If it’s on the list, it’ll get done, but I try to be fluid about it and not beat myself up when something goes unfinished. It was difficult, but I’ve adopted a ‘move it to tomorrow’ mantra. I find I’m more efficient this way!

    1. Yes! I have to-do lists for everything too. There’s nothing so satisfying as crossing something off a list 🙂 I do mine on a monthly basis, rather than daily – that way I’m not too strict on myself and I give myself some breathing space for days when things just don’t go the way I had planned.

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