Is multitasking good for you?

 Until recently I used to be proud of being a multitasker. I am a multitasker, and I got there through practice. I started my career quite early in my life, and then I started my family life. It was a great thing that happened to me during those days that I had a job and sufficient income of my own before I started with family life. When you start your family life and you have a job it is expected for ladies to be on their toes. You need to be a Trapeze artist to manage both your home and career. Though I had complete support from my family and my partner, you can’t get out of the responsibilities that essentially shouldered upon you. Like most working women out there, I managed my roles as a family person and a professional. When you are put in a situation where you need to play multiple positions and try to do your best to make the people around you happy and give your best at your workplace, you will start to multitask. I was able to participate in a business discussion while doing my accounts! It all comes from practice. I am sure many of those who are reading this can relate to my story. I have no doubt that I was always trying my best in whatever task given to me, though I am not really sure about what the people around me think about the quality of my work. I was keeping on multitasking, and now it has sort of becoming a lifestyle for me. 

woman in green sweater sitting on chair while holding baby

The hit of the pandemic Covid19 has changed our lives so much that I started thinking about various possibilities of efficiently utilizing my time and skills. It is always my siblings who are on my side to feed me with the necessary guidance and support. We planned to create an online teaching platform during the days of the pandemic. While I was doing my regular job from home, we started with it, and I couldn’t even find domestic help during the pandemic’s initial days.

I did multiple things simultaneously, and I was so used to it that I failed to realize it’s not a healthy thing to do until a few minor accidents. As I had to do my job and do the household things together, it happened that I forgot to turn off the stove a couple of times, which could have become a major tragedy. I burnt myself in the kitchen while pouring hot water while I was worried about my online class time to be started soon. I realized that since I am trying to do many things simultaneously, I cannot focus on a single task that is putting me and the people around in a dangerous situation.

gold iPhone 6

During those days, I heard a few discussions about the ill-effects of multitasking, which was very relatable to me. I slowly realized that the multitasking that I have been doing for so many years caused me to lose focus. I am quickly getting distracted. I sit with a book and try to read, but after a few minutes, my mind will be elsewhere, thinking about my next task or turning on my mobile screen to check the notifications. To be able to focus on things that you do is essential for it to be perfect. If you cannot focus on what you do, you will essentially make a lot of mistakes. 

People are, indeed, wired differently. Our talents and level of efficiencies are varied. But what do the studies say about multitasking? 

Multitasking is initially used in computer science literature in which one CPU does two or more processes at the same time. When it comes to human beings, our brain is the central processing unit (CPU) and gives the illusion of multitasking by switching between tasks performed in the same time frame.  Recent research conducted at Stanford University revealed that multitasking is 40% less productive than doing a single thing at a time. Researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of information cannot pay attention, recall information or switch from one job to another, as compared to those who do one task at a time. Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can focus on one thing at a time.

woman covering her face with white book

Though our brain can receive millions of commands, it can only process a few of them. When you try to do multiple things at once, your mind cannot successfully perform all of them. It is estimated that only 2% of the population is actually proficient at multitasking, and ironically these people are the least likely to actually multitask. If you think you are among this 2%, stop and think for a while whether you can excel in what you are doing. I feel that to do your best in what you do is much better than poorly doing many things. If you are a multitasker, try to ponder over your work quality and find out how good you are at what you are doing. 

Find your Ikigai

Have you heard of the word Ikigai? Ikigai is, in fact, a Japanese word meaning ‘the reason for living.’ People sometimes feel disappointed, lonely, frustrated, or unworthy. I have often come across people saying that they are bored with their life, they don’t have anything to do with their lives except for the daily routine tasks, and they get bored with it. It’s right for everyone. If there is nothing unusual in your life, you get bored and frustrated. You lose hope and become disappointed, which will slowly lead to a state of depression. We often hear about people suffering from depression. They don’t reach that stage in a day. Multiple factors and reasons pile up each day, leading them to depression. People undergo depression because they don’t find a purpose in life. This is a pretty lousy stage to reach. You need to diagnose it and overcome it before it hits you badly. This happens to people mostly when they get middle ages and start to grow old. When you are young, you are full of energy, you have a job, you have a family to take care of, and you have a purpose for living. Each day you have something to look forward to. You will be overwhelmed by your responsibilities that you don’t have time for anything. But as you grow old, your responsibilities reduce, your kids become independent and leave you to settle their own lives, you retire, and there is no major task that’s awaiting you. This will make you lonely, and slowly you will reach a stage of disappointment and unworthiness. You often become frustrated and eventually drop into depression.

Here comes a magic word that can help you out of the difficulty you face right now or meet soon. The magic word is ‘Ikigai.’ Ikigai is a concept originally from Japan, and it means the ‘reason for living’. Iki means life, and gai means value or worth. 

There is a rural town called Ogimi, in the Japanese island of Okinawa, which is known as the ‘village of longevity,’ with so many centenarians and supercentenarians living there. Japan is known for having one of the longest living citizens in the world. The average lifespan for the Japanese people is 87 years for women and 81 years for men.

According to the Japanese, everyone has an Ikigai that they carry within them. Some have already found it while others are still looking for it. Those who discover their ikigai have everything they need for a long and joyful journey through life. Our ikigai is deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search. According to those born on Okinawa, the island with the most centenarians in the world, our ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning. 

Love What You Do and Do What You Love poster

If you can clearly define your ikigai it would bring satisfaction, happiness and meaning to your life. Many Japanese people never really retire. They keep doing whatever they love for as long as their health allows. Our idea of retirement simply doesn’t exist there. 

According to the scientists who studied about the five blue zones, or the five islands in the world with the longest lifespan, the key to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life (ikigai), and forming strong social ties – that is, having a broad circle of friends and good family relations. They manage their time well so that stress is reduced. They consume little meat or processed food and drink alcohol in moderation. They don’t do strenuous exercise, but they move every day, take walks and work in their vegetable gardens. They walk rather than drive. 

person walking on beach during daytime

Now let’s see how to find the Ikigai. First of all, you need to realize and believe the fact that you are born with multiple talents. Human beings are a powerhouse of immense potential. We carry superpowers within ourselves that many of us fail to find out. It is our task to connect with the real powers that we carry. Just recollect what we used to love as a child and think of all the activities that make you happy. You can ask your family members and friends to find out more about your interests and skills. List out all the things that interest you. Think of the skills you used to have as a child. If you can build your career on your passion and the skills that you hold, you will start enjoying your job or, in other words, that will become your Ikigai. 

Your ikigai is a point where the following elements overlap:-

What you love

What you are good at

What the world needs

What you can be paid for

Some people enjoy social service and helping others. Definitely, it’s a great thing to do. But the problem arises when you are unable to support your living, or when your main job becomes a burden for you, you will eventually withdraw from the social services you were into. This will bring stress and dissatisfaction. The idea is to try to align your interests and passion with the job you are doing and try to make a living out of it to enjoy what you do. You will be able to find the utmost happiness of life, or in other words, you will find your Ikigai. 

I didn’t know English

There was a time I used to hate English. I didn’t know basic grammar. My vocabulary was poor. I believed that English is not my cup of tea. I did most part of my schooling in a Malayalam medium convent school in Kochi. I was born and brought up there in Kochi. I went to the same school where my mother and aunts went. Though I was admitted to KG in the English section, I couldn’t continue it there. Later I got admitted to the Malayalam medium section. I used to love my mother tongue. Even now, I am a great fan of Malayalam. I used to score excellent marks in Malayalam. Malayalam teachers used to love me, and vice versa.

sticky notes on wall

I read a lot in Malayalam, wrote poems and articles, and continued growing my hatred towards the English language. Then we happened to move to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When we moved, there was only one school for Indians over there. It was the Embassy of India school, following the CBSE curriculum. The challenge began there. There we had students and teachers from all parts of India.  It was difficult for me to speak a single sentence in English. I could write because I used to mug up the answers. I worked day and night to improve. I used to sit with a dictionary till late at night while I was studying. Since I was obsessed with studies, I never found it challenging. I was always a hard-working student. I could improve slowly and passed all exams with satisfactory grades, which was an unexpected thing for a student coming from a different instruction medium. I believe it was my hard work and the passion to learn that paid off. 

I started with my first job as a teacher soon after I completed my 12th grade. I still remember my first interview day, I was asked to write an application for the job. Of course, I knew how to write a job application, but to write it in English was a challenge. I wrote with whatever English I knew. I am sure I had made a lot of mistakes in it. But luckily, I got the job because the vacancy was for a Malayalam teacher. That was a cool offer for a Malayalam lover. The first year at work happens to be tough for anyone, and so was it for me. The Malayalam teacher of that primary school had to teach other subjects later, and I started speaking with more confidence. I learned to speak English while I was teaching.

Teaching is the best teacher. Yes, you read it right.  If you want to learn something correctly, you go and teach that to someone. Teaching is the best way to learn anything. Starting out from a small private school in Jeddah, we moved to set up our own school, where I worked as a teacher cum admission officer in the initial years and then the Chief Administrator. The journey was exciting and satisfying. My language improved much more since I was practising more in speaking and writing. I had to communicate with parents, teachers, and students, all in English. I had to write messages to the parents, letters and reports to my superiors, all in English. This is the way I improved. I know my English is not perfect even now, but I put in regular efforts to improve. Many people around me are facing a problem with their spoken English. They can read, write and understand English, but when it comes to speaking, they fail. Here I am trying to put in some tips that could help those looking to improve their language skills. 

Practice makes perfect – It is rightly said, the journey of a lifetime begins with a single step. It’s crucial to set your targets right and make the steps right. Each and every step towards your goal counts. There is no magic pill for success. It takes dedication and hard work. We come across many tempting captions like ‘be an expert in 7 days or 7 weeks’. It’s not true. No one can become an expert through shortcuts. Malcolm Gladwell, the famous author and journalist, says, “ to become an expert, you need to practice for 10,000 hrs.” That’s the first tip to success. You need to practice consistently. 

brown wooden cross on white surface
Practice makes perfect

Find your motivation – Motivation is necessary to move forward with any task. What’s your reason for learning? Is it that you need to speak like so and so, or need to teach, or interact or travel outside your language barrier. My inspiration was that I had to interact with Non-Malayalam speaking people. I didn’t want to make mistakes while talking. I didn’t want to be embarrassed. You need to find your motivation. If you don’t have an English speaking friend, find one and start interacting. This will give you a push to speak. You can also find fellow learners. There will be many out there who have a similar issue. Look out for them and create a speaking practice platform. Don’t be ashamed to make mistakes. When you start speaking, it is evident that you could make a lot of errors. But be ready to accept the mistakes. Don’t bother about what people say or think.

Language is for communication. If you can communicate right, you are good to go. You will have a mental block that you need to break. Once it is broken, it’s easy to move forward. Initially focus on communication and basic grammar. Grammar is the foundation of a language. Your vocabulary and language skills will improve as you practice more. You need to dedicate daily time for practice. The practice is the success mantra when it comes to communication skills. If you are really serious about improving your language skills, maintain a notebook where you can log in to new words with examples. Moreover, writing helps in developing the language. 

You can make your English learning a fun time. Thinking in English is the first lesson most of the trainers advise. Start thinking in English. When you are alone, talk to yourself in English. You can talk to yourself in English while cooking, cleaning, or doing any other work. Plan an English only evening where you and your family members speak only in English. If you can join your family members in your efforts to learn, it will become more enjoyable. Think of converting the small activities you do daily to English. While cooking, speak out the names of the ingredients in English and narrate cooking in English. You can even write down your recipes in English. 

Read More

Start reading English books and articles. These days you don’t even have to spend on books to read. The Internet is full of materials that you can make use of. Make a habit of reading at least one page a day, and you can increase the number of pages slowly when your speed and understanding grows. You can watch English movies, videos, and news channels. It’s a great way to improve your language skills. You can even write down your daily activities in a notebook if you don’t have anything else to write. This will create good memories for you when you look back years later. If possible, you can join an English speakers club. A plethora of options is available for those who have a spark to learn. The Internet is full of learning materials for those who are seeking to improve. You can subscribe to any free learning YouTube channels or groups. 

The most important thing is your mindset. If you have a keen desire to learn and improve you, need to dedicate time to it. You need to look for ways through which you can improve. If you find your way, set your goals and milestones. Each move matters. So hold on to your goals and keep moving. I have written this because I want to inspire you by narrating my story. I never thought I would have my own blog, and I would be able to reach out to you in this way.  You have read until here because you have a desire to improve your language skills. If you have decided to work on it after reading this article, let me know your plans in the comment box below. 

woman in striped shirt sitting on bed while writing
If there is a will there is a way!

What is stopping you from achieving your dream?

Do you have a dream? When I ask you this question, what is the thought that came to your mind? You would have been thinking about your greatest dreams as a child. Or maybe you remembered a strong desire that is deeply hidden in your mind and never got a chance to work on it. This is a normal question that we face as a child,  what’s your goal and what do you want to be when you grow up? All of us would have come across this question in the initial stages of our lives. The question comes from our parents, relatives, teachers, and friends. Try to remember all the answers you have given. I’m sure it’s not a single answer that you had at different stages of life. Our ambitions vary as we get older, and as we are introduced to new ideas and concepts. But there will not be a time that you go without a goal. But what happened when you grew older? Just think for a while. Some people chase their goals and become achievers while others are forced to drop their dreams at some point in their lives. There are plenty of reasons for this. Let us examine it one by one. Why is it that most of the people fail to chase their dream? It’s mostly their circumstances. Life takes us through unexpected paths that you get lost or forced to sail to a different direction that you never wanted. This is the story of life. No, I would say this is the story of life for normal people. But do you want to be one among those normal people? Don’t you feel a special spark within you that makes you different from the people around you? Yes, there is a spark in you that makes you special. You are special. You always knew it but never bothered to light that spark. Or maybe that you never got a chance. But now this is the chance. If you couldn’t do it some years back, now it’s the perfect moment for you. Start dreaming, take the first step towards chasing the dream. You will have to meet a lot of obstacles that keep you away from your dream. But don’t give up. The first step towards going towards your dream is to be aware of the obstacles that could come your way. There are multiple factors that come on your way and take you away from your dream destination. You have to be well aware of it. Now let’s see what are those things that block your way.

close up photography of black and white ceramic mug on table

The biggest block is you –  You would be shocked to read this line. But it is the bitter reality of your life. The biggest block on your way is none other than you yourself. Your mindset, your prejudices, your self-doubts, everything works as catalysts to pull you back. You have that feeling within you that you are not capable of achieving anything special. Or you think that you will not be able to make it. You don’t trust yourself. There are so many things within you that are pulling you back. If you don’t trust yourself who on earth is going to trust you? You need to get rid of that mental block that’s holding you back. Start looking at yourself from a different perspective.  If you are the biggest block that also means that other obstacles are smaller and you can overcome them easily. The roadblocks that come on your way are in fact the signboards that tell you success is just around the corner. Don’t get disappointed by the obstacles on the way. Take one step at a time and slowly you can remove it all away. 

Don’t be afraid to fail – You always have a second or a third chance to be successful. We have this story of Thomas Alva Edison who failed almost 10,000 times before he invented the electric bulb. Your attitude towards failure is what matters. Edison has taken each of his failures as a way of learning. After failing the 9,000th time he said that now he knows 9,000 ways through which it’s not going to work. That’s the spirit. The moment you decide to give up could be the point where you are just a step away from success. Teach your mind that you need not be successful at every attempt. You need not win every test. It’s perfectly fine to fail and learn new ways of doing things. The crucial thing is that you need to accept your failure as a reality and never stop trying because you are afraid to lose. 

There is no need to be a Mr/Ms perfect – It is good to be perfect. But unnecessary worries about perfectionism can pull you back. You can do a single thing in multiple ways. If it didn’t work this way try the other way. Your work will get perfect through practice only. You always can go back and work on things and improve quality. If you pull yourself back due to the fear of perfectionism, you will never be able to go forward. You will reach near to perfection once you keep practising and that is the way you will be able to find out the different ways of doing a single task. 

white ceramic mug on table

It’s not how you end up with the tasks you have taken up, it’s also in how well you work on it. You need to enjoy the work that you are doing rather than worrying about the end results of the task. If you focus on just the end results you will not be able to enjoy the process, which will make you frustrated and drive you away from your goals. Instead of taking big leaps towards the target, divide the whole path into small, achievable steps. Take small steps everyday which can lead you towards the goal. If you are determined to chase your dream there is nothing on earth that can stop you. It’s all in your hands and determination is the power that keeps you going. What is the spark you received after reading this?