The truth about multitasking
Multi-tasking is one of those things we do every day, even though we know it can actually be detrimental to our productivity. Like Garry Keller and Jay Papasan point out in their bestselling productivity book, The One Thing, “the modern office is a carnival for distracting multi-tasking demands.” In fact, modern day workers are “interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions.” Even so, the desire to check as many things off your to-do list as possible is almost impossible to ignore.
However, despite how full offices and 9-5 day-jobs are with multi-task-oriented things, when it comes to creativity, most of us don’t attempt it at all. This realization got me thinking, researching, and hunting for answers.
Here’s what I discovered
Most part-time writers spend their workdays in the office multi-tasking. However, when they come home to write at the end of the day, they only ever work on one project: their novel. Think about it. How many writers do you know who seem to be going in a million different directions all the time, but the only creative thing they ever work on is their current Work in Progress. A lot, right?
The truth is that this kind of lifestyle–multitasking during the 9-5 workday and focusing only on one creative project–is even more exhausting than you might think. While at first you might expect that working on only one creative project would conserve energy, it actually zaps our creative energy.
The cycle of creativity and inspiration tells us that the more we create, the more inspired we will feel. This increased inspiration fills up our creative well and gets us more excited about the act of creating. Simply put, the more we create, the more motivated we will be to continue creating. (For more on the cycle of creativity and inspiration, see my recent blog post, “3 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creativity”).
The solution: multi-creating
If you’re feeling exhausted, uninspired, and unmotivated when it comes time to write, this probably means that you’re lacking creative energy. Thankfully, the solution is simple: replace multi-tasking with multi-creating. That is, during your work day, practice focusing on a single task at a time rather than multi-tasking your way through the day. This will conserve mental energy and leave you feeling less burnt out at the end of the day. On the other hand, practice expanding your creative horizons by engaging with more than one creative project.
This doesn’t mean that you should be working on seven novels at once, or even that you should be working on more than one at once. It also doesn’t mean that you should switch back and forth between creative projects during a single work session. This switching back and forth is what makes multi-tasking so detrimental to our productivity and focus.
Instead, multi-creating means that you should be engaging in different creative endeavors over the course of your days or weeks. The act of creating one thing will make you feel even more inspired to create another thing. Therefore, if you add even a few minutes of drawing, playing music, or another creative hobby into your schedule, you will feel more motivated and energized to work on your novel.
Examples of multi-creating
For example, instead of only ever working on your novel, try adding in 15 minutes of freewriting or filling a page in your notebook with anything you want. This could be multimedia, painting, quotes, writing, color, the possibilities are endless.
Adding just fifteen minutes of a different creative project or hobby will help increase your creative energy and will allow you to enter into the cycle of creativity and inspiration!
Try it out!
- Implement a daily one-page practice. Every day, commit to filling one page in your writer’s notebook. You can fill it with anything (painting, drawing, words, quotes, a collage, etc.). Have fun with it. The possibilities are endless!
- Adopt Julia Cameron’s famous Morning Pages practice. Morning pages are three pages of handwritten, stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. They are meant to unlock your mind, purge you of distracting thoughts, and get you in touch with your creative brain!
- Allot just a few minutes a day to another creative hobby (music, painting, embroidery, even cooking). Anything goes, as long as it’s something that makes you feel inspired.
- Subscribe to my Newsletter here and receive a free copy of my Daily Creative Workbook. This workbook will give you all the tools necessary to begin multi-creating in a healthy and intentional way.
With Love, Cats, and Coffee 💖,
The Present Active Writer