There are many ways my life has changed in the past few years. Many of those things are in my day-to-day life, but I also feel like the world is changing around me. From the way we work to the way we interact with the world, these changes mean that my life looks different. One of these ways is the ever-growing presence of multi-tasking in my day-to-day life. I’m not here to defend or attack multi-tasking (at least not today), but there’s no denying that it’s part of our lives. Not only is it easier than ever to multi-task, but I also tend to notice I can create more issues than I solve by doing so.
The struggle with multi-tasking isn’t new, but the way it looks in 2023 is very different than before. We have more devices to use, with more apps on them, with more chances to get notifications about anything. The world challenges our attention all day, in both obvious and unsuspecting ways. The amount of visual and audio stimuli is bigger and presents more of a challenge than ever before.
But even though I know multi-tasking isn’t always effective, I can’t help but do it. I’m a bit stubborn about admitting that I do it more than I should, but I see it as the way things are now. If something isn’t keeping my attention, I’ll add another element to make the experience worthwhile. Think of listening to a podcast while I’m doing dishes, or playing music while writing a blog post (yes, I am doing that). Multi-tasking in this way feels harmless, even the smart thing, to do.
But it’s that type of thinking that can cause trouble when we try to multi-task when we shouldn’t. An good example of this is when I want to watch a movie, and then find myself multi-tasking while watching it. There’s nothing wrong with doing this if it’s how I want to spend that time. But if I’m annoyed that I missed something in the movie, I’m ignoring my role in things. We slip into doing two things at once all the time, and it becomes a problem when slip into it in ways we can’t see.
Like I said, this unconscious action can often be harmless. Over time, though, I’ve noticed how it can trigger my anxiety as well. When I try to do too many things at once, I overstimulate myself. I forget how this situation came together, and how I added in one element after another. My reaction is to all the elements that are working together and the end result of it. In these moments, I often get mad at myself, as if I chose to create all this chaos on purpose.
Over time, I’ve tried to notice when I’m doing too many things at once. Scrolling on my phone while watching tv isn’t overstimulating. But trying to have something on television while I listen to some music and try to do tasks on my computer – that’s a lot. When it comes to multi-tasking, I’ve learned to take the same approach I have about my mental health: find what works for me, and don’t worry about what doesn’t. For me, there’s not much more to it than that. We’re all trying the best we can out here, and that is enough.