Are You Multi-Tasking or Multi-Failing?

It’s autumn once again: the holidays have ended and it’s back to school/ college/ work for everybody. Forget January, everyone knows that the real new year’s resolutions are made now – a fresh workload, a new project… what better time to take on a new hobby, get fit or make a proper go at being houseproud?

Multi-tasking is an increasingly prized talent in today’s society as we become busier and busier, juggling a seemingly endless chain of commitments. However while we may feel smug that we can balance so many responsibilities we have also lost the distinction between “multi-tasking” and “taking on more than is necessary.”

Remember the old saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none’? The fact that you can manage a multitude of activities doesn’t mean that you should or, more importantly, that you are doing them well.

In other words, are you multi-tasking or multi-failing?

What Multi-Failing Looks Like – and How to Avoid It

Do you often start tasks but rarely complete them? Do you feel that you are constantly trying to catch up with your schedule? Have you given up one or more activities/ resolutions you wanted to do due to a seeming lack of time? If this is you then you need to rethink your commitments and think about how you are organising your time.

September is a good time of year for a rethink and taking on new projects but you have to be sensible.
Firstly, make a list of all the ongoing commitments you have and wish to take on in the near future. Then make a list of finite projects and activities that you have scheduled for the coming year. Rank these in order of importance to you and how easy they are to achieve or maintain.

Next, get out your diary. After you have put in your essential commitments such as work, childcare etc. work out how much time you’ll have left over each week for other projects.

Be realistic about how much time you are going to want to devote to external commitments when you are back at work and living a more stressful life once again. Much though we all like to imagine that we can become renaissance beings filled with talent and purpose … at the end of the day, all we have the energy for is curling up with a book or in front of the TV.

When you have blocked out a realistic amount of time for what you want to do, schedule in your various activities, again being aware of context. For example putting a gym session directly after work may be unwise for some people, others – like myself – may find that it’s easier to pop in on the way home than to get motivated to go out again later.

This may seem unnecessarily organised but I find that properly planning something makes it much more likely that I’ll keep it up – partly because I hate to let all that organisation go to waste and partly because it’s much easier to do things when you’ve already sorted out the logistics of it all. That being said, flexibility is important: life will get in the way and this shouldn’t make you worry.

Extra commitments are extra because they’re not essential: life won’t grind to a halt if you put them on hold for a few days.

Finally, if things really aren’t going well and you feel like you’ve taken on too much, don’t be afraid to ditch a commitment. Not on a whim and not after the first time you don’t look forward to doing it … but if after a sustained period of time you’re not enjoying an activity, don’t keep on doing it. It will sap your energy and enjoyment of other activities you do still enjoy and you will worry about keeping it up.


So – are you multi-tasking or multi-failing? If you’re struggling (or, conversely, if you’ve got some great tips) then let us know in the comments…

Rebecca Smith is a recent Mphil graduate in Anthropology assuaging her fears and angers about the post-university world through blogging about her experiences in this area and her advice to others similarly situated. If this strikes a chord with you check out

Post image from Flickr by Carissa GoodNCrazy

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One Response to “ Are You Multi-Tasking or Multi-Failing? ”

  1. Carissa says:

    Hey glad you liked my kiddo’s list!
    And you know the really funny thing.. my personal blog’s tag line is ‘Mom all trades… jack of none’! I think I am Multi-failing!! :)

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