The other day a woman reported that she was feeling overwhelmed — she was trying to do so much that she felt she wasn’t doing anything well. Was multi-tasking the answer, she asked?
No, I answered, multi-tasking doesn’t really work. Try mono-tasking instead. Do one thing at a time. Do it thoroughly and do it well. Then move on to the next thing. Mono-tasking.
When you’re multi-tasking — trying to do two or three things simultaneously — you end up doing none of them well. Your stress level goes through the roof.
Face it, there’s just one you. You have the wondrous ability to give 100% of your attention to something. Multi-tasking asks you to divide your attention, and you end up with less than 100% on each task — and this is where errors occur… you end up spending more time fixing the resulting problems than you would if you gave the task all of your attention at the start.
Reading a memo while on a conference call when researching data and preparing a Power Point — you’re not truly engaged in any of these tasks and probably won’t have a great result. How much better to be truly present for the one minute it takes to read the memo, then participate fully in the conference call and make time later to do thorough, comprehensive research before you design the Power Point. That seems doable, manageable and calm, doesn’t it?
The opposite of overwhelmed, of course, is underwhelmed. Underwhelmed is what teachers generally feel about the work product of boys in their first year of high school. Wives are often underwhelmed by the anniversary gifts their husbands proffer — word to the wise: just because Hallmark says it’s the Paper Anniversary doesn’t mean paper towels are an appropriate gift. Hallmark is referring to the wrapping paper around the gift. Honey, every anniversary is the jewelry anniversary. That’s all you need to remember.
Underwhelm is often about our expectations of what others should be doing. And you know I have a deep dislike of the word ‘should’. In my life, I simply replace ‘should’ with ‘choose’ and feel so much happier. Rather than saying, “Charlie shouldn’t have shopped at 7-Eleven on Christmas Eve for my gift”, you can get to a level of acceptance when you realize Charlie chose to give you that box of frozen burritos — and you can ask him about that choice.
(By the way, Charlie, see above reference to The Jewelry Rule for Anniversaries. Same rule applies to Christmas. You’re welcome.)
Overwhelmed. Underwhelmed. It occurred to me this week that no one ever says, “I feel whelmed.” We’re always over or under.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to answer the question, “How you doing today?” with “I’m whelmed, thank you very much! And you?”
Whelmed — the point at which you are neither over nor under. You are not fruitlessly multi-tasking. You are balanced. You are paying appropriate attention and spending appropriate time on your tasks.
You are whelmed.
As the holidays approach with their attendant stressful opportunities for overwhelming tasks and underwhelming performance by others — reduce your stress by choosing to be whelmed. Whelmed one task at a time.