I’m a single tasker. And that’s fine!

woman-multitasking

I learnt a new word recently. Single tasker. A person who can do one job at a time. The word very succinctly describes me. Yes, in a world of multi-taskers, I’m odd. I am a single tasker.

The multi-taskers run businesses, train for the marathon at the crack of dawn, are on the PTA committee at school, between con-calls, back to back meetings and deadlines, they tweet, organise parties at home and don’t be surprised if they announce one fine day that they have penned a book. After all that’s the in-thing to do today.

Phew! Just typing it all left me exhausted.

It’s not uncommon to hear about authors who have written 4, 5..7 books. Alongside writing one per year, they blog, tweet, and some have kids, do yoga or Zumba, flaunt diva-esque bodies and also have full time jobs.

I am in awe of them. These multi-taskers. I look at them with envy because I’m not like that at all. Truth be told, I cringe in shame when compared with them. I gave up my freelance writing career and a promising business venture with a friend to focus on my writing. I’m mother to a 17 year old who is extremely independent; he neither needs nor wants my motherly inputs. I should be able to pack in more in my life, every day. But I don’t. More accurately, I can’t. I’m a single tasker. I can do one thing at a time. Dammit! I can’t even read two books at a time. When I read about Indrani Mukherjea and her sordid saga my first thoughts were, “How the hell did she juggle so many men and intrigues?” I can barely manage one husband, one curly top and a dog! God lord! I’m really an idiot. Low IQ kinda person.

I just can’t do it!

It took 40 years of harried, hurried and hassled running around like a headless chicken to finally accept that I just can’t do it all. I’m not a multi-tasker. I can’t do 10 things at a time. Guess what I can’t even do 5. I can just about manage to deal with 2, maybe 3 if I really stretch myself. And I’m ok with it. This calm acceptance of what I considered my biggest flaw came to me to after two decades of self-berating and self-flogging. Of feeling lesser and not smart enough like the super multi-taskers.

The trajectory of my mental evolution was something like this: first I tried to do it all. Believing if others could, so can I. I fumbled, blundered and made a mess of things. Countless cheques were deposited without my signature on it. Packed everything I needed, the family needed, checked the baby bag and left for a trip with my wallet lying smugly on the bedside table. Innumerable dinners have been burned. And then the worst…I left my infant son in the car, doors locked and key dangling inside!! The List goes on as did my shame, horror and self-loath.

Stage two was hate and resentment. Directed at myself and my hubby. I believed he was responsible for it all. Married women do this a lot; direct their anger at their better half for the things they are unable to do. So after two decades of this turmoil, when I turned 40, I think it was the dawn of sense and sensibility. Gradually I began to accept who I am, the way I am. Nirvana is far away, but the self-acceptance is calming.

Recently I watched Shonda Rhimes, writer of Grey’s Anatomy give a speech at the graduation ceremony of Dartmouth University. She said,

Don’t be fooled by women who tell you that they do it all. Work, exercise, be there for their kids, paint, entertain, cook and etc… Nobody can. Nobody can do it all. If they are succeeding at something, it means they are failing somewhere else. If I’m writing an award winning show and winning accolades for it, I’m not there to watch my baby take the swimming lesson or play the piano. So stop believing in the media-created myth of this impossible super woman who can do it all and more with elan. It’s an urban legend.

Irrespective of what we excel in, nobody can beat a woman at beating herself down. We love to look at ourselves with negativity. Even before others cast the first stone, we have already beaten ourselves down to pulp. I did it for years.

Nobody can do everything and if there’re people who can work, run, cook, paint and etc…good for them. They are wired differently.

It’s perfectly fine not to be able to do everything. I pick the ones that really matter.

Choose what you love the most and enjoy that to the optimum. Don’t feel stupid. You aren’t. We aren’t meant to be clones of each other. Beauty lies in diversity. Beauty lies in accepting who you are and relishing it!

So I watch the world rush by, doing multiple things while I lumber along doing just one. Some days the old feeling of self-loath returns and I scold myself but I’m older and hopefully wiser.

It’s ok, be yourself. You’re fine. I remind myself.

A leading cosmetic brand screams – You’re worth it; I tell myself – I accept me.

Do you?

14 thoughts on “I’m a single tasker. And that’s fine!

  1. I agree that nobody can do it all! Congrats on accepting yourself Kanchana. Multi-tasking can’t be done over a prolonged time. People get burned out. Been toying with writing an article about it. Glad that you have. Single tasking is the only way to focus and get things done. We tend to get distracted, frazzled, irritated and angry with multi-tasking.

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  2. Love the word. I am a single tasker too. And I am happy with it. For I don’t want to reach anywhere without enjoying the journey at my pace.

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  3. Kanchana, do you know that multi-tasking is actually a myth, and what so-called multi-taskers do is actually called “thin splicing” in terms of neurological processes? And, it is said to bring in lower productivity – there have been experiments done to prove that. So you can pat yourself on the back for doing naturally what is actually a saner choice! 🙂

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  4. Oh! Thank you Kanchana for writing this, I am a single tasker too!!! And every time I read an article about women ‘doing it all’ made me feel so guilty and stupid….. very well written.

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  5. I hate these superwomen, multitasker, goddess labels that they attach to women to make them slog on and on. I tried like you to hold a full-time job, manage a house and a toddler and I was overworked, stressed and fed up. That is when I decided to prioritize, quit my job and make the choice to enjoy my children’s childhoods. Now I work part-time, have refused plum full-time offers but know that I can never slog that way and be happy. Like you, I have accepted myself. I don’t know who made life so difficult for women in the first place by waving these huge expectations at us? I don’t know why some of us are trying to kill themselves by doing it all whatever all is.

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    1. thanks Rachna for reading and liking. I think somewhere we do this to ourselves. i dont you and i had anyone put a gun to our heads and told …do 10 things else…women today build an image for themselves. we tell ourselves we need to have the perfect kitchen. perfect kids. perfect home and of course we have to be perfect at our jobs. we load things on our plate and ultimately collapse. a friend of mine, school pal. she is a dancer, a writer, editor, mom to 2 kids. she doesnt believe in having domestic help. she cooks and cleans the house herself. another friend…an IIM-A passout. super job, two kids, marathon runner. she irons clothes for the whole family every sunday. and she doesnt believe in having full time help. but of course she cooks. who else can make perfect healthy idlis for the kids. what do u say to such women!!

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  6. Hey Kanchana
    I just read your post on “how I wrote my First book” on women’s web and it had me laughing and completely admiring your style!! It lead me to your blog and its very readable, honest and amusing too. I would love to read your book now!! I’ve imagined I’m going to be a writer for long enough and I understand only too well every single hurdle you’ve overcome to write!! Now that you’ve proven that its do able beyond doubt, I have to say I have no excuses left but to get on with it. Where there’s a will…
    As for being a single tasker, I was just like you but now at 41 have realised very, very few are truly great at doing multiple things! Most are really great at projecting themselves as doing multiple things. If you are going to be honest then you have to also be more easy on yourself !! The fact is its physically impossible (if you do the maths and break things down) for people to be doing so many things ! Take for eg. – Angelina Jolie- clearly if she’s so busy acting and doing as much charity work across the globe as her photo ops leads us to believe, she clearly cannot be spending enough time with the half a dozen or more kids she’s busy adopting!!! Heck! with one and two kids women feel so hard pressed for time for themselves and their jobs!! Unless Jolie has a couple more clones that lurk around …Something’s not adding up! Or maybe I’m a cynic!
    Kanchana, I would say- be at peace with yourself, be proud of yourself!! You are obviously “giving” of yourself a great deal, by taking good care of the family, despite all the demands and chaos, a creative mind undoubtedly churns up and… you ARE a brilliant writer !! The rest doesn’t matter…
    For many of us women, no paparazzi is around to click those pics at those opportune moments of our greatness and benevolence. But that doesn’t mean our sacrifice or brilliance can be undermined !!! Sometimes we must do some “virtual” filing away of our own, to pep ourselves up and egg us on in our journey of personal fulfilment and brilliance !!
    Good Luck with the next book and may your craft grow from strength to strength!!!!
    Sonia

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  7. I hear you ! Multi tasking according to me is not something to be proud of. You end up doing a lot lot things and not enjoying any of them. I am a single tasker too . I would rather give all my time on one task before moving on !

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  8. See, all fine as long as one at least does that one thing one has decided to do. Sometimes I am so lazy that I am better defined a zero-tasker!

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