In order for you to see how I came to the conclusion on this very real-life topic, you need to know a bit about my background. I will keep it as short and (hopefully) sweet as possible!
In 2003 I left College. I knew that I did NOT want to go to university. There was just something inside of me that was really sure of this! So, without going onto further education, I was pretty much left with finding a ‘career’ or otherwise known as getting a job to earn money. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my future, so when my mum suggested I get a job at the firm she was working at, I did. I became a full time New Business Administrator for a Life Assurance company and before I knew it, 2 years had gone by. I knew it wasn’t for me, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I eventually decided I would take up my hobby of keeping fit as a career and I began studying in my personal time to become an ‘All Round Fitness Professional’! The perfectly apt, title for someone who doesn’t know what they want to do but has a rough idea of the industry they want to be in!!
A long story made very short….In 2005 I qualified as a gym instructor, quit my (comfortably paid) admin job and got a (not so comfortably paid) job at a local gym. During my time there I worked and studied, earning my Personal Training, Exercise to Music, Pilates, GP Referral, Circuits, Nutrition & Weight Management, Pre / Post Natal, etc etc etc qualifications! (I have my certificates if you want the full list) At this point I wanted to do it all. I wanted to know everything I possibly could and I wanted to get a role in each of these areas, so I could put my new found knowledge to good use.
In 2007, I decided I wanted to work on cruise ships and I was lucky enough for these qualifications to allow this wish to become a reality. I taught the full timetable of classes and had a ball.
In 2009, when I returned to the UK, I got a job at a small local gym as an instructor and before I knew it (on my first day actually because the instructor called in sick!) I was teaching classes and then the entire timetable. At the same time I took up my own community Zumba classes and I had several regular Personal Training clients. I was also attending educational courses on weekends to maintain my accreditation. Then in 2012 I got offered a full-time position as gym manager. I was lucky enough to negotiate my hours down to 34 a week, so I could continue my community classes, studio classes and PT. At the same time I was on the local areas cover list and covering classes on a weekly basis, whilst studying for my level 3 NVQ in leadership and management.
So to re-cap, I got to the point where I was doing:
· 34hrs Gym Management
· Gym Instructor cover hours
· Zumba, Pilates, Spinning, LBT, Yoga, Circuits & various cover alternatives
· 8-10 Personal Training clients a week
· Level 3 NVQ
That is minimum 10 DIFFERENT ‘hats’ day in day out, week in week out. I’m sure you can see what is coming next.
Slowly but surely I noticed a decline in my ability to teach at 100% of my capability. By late 2012 I was really struggling…..I had no impetus to create new routines for my classes or PT clients and I even began to dread being face to face with anyone that expected something of me because I felt I had nothing to give them. I found myself feeling, what I can only describe as empty. Like I had been fed on by vampires!
I quite literally had nothing left at the end of every day. I kept telling myself that I just needed a good night’s sleep and good quality food and that I could then face the next day no problem. However, eating well felt like another chore because I could not be bothered to cook after my long day (I was living alone at this point), so I managed to turn to food as a source of desperate re-charging rather than the essential re-fuelling I needed. I was trying to fill the output/hole that my massive daily multi-tasking had created by putting high energy, high sugar, and terribly nutrient deficient foods in. Eventually this led to a form of eating disorder. (We do not have time to go into that one on this blog but I will write about it in another one)
After what felt like an eternity of this vicious cycle, but in reality was only 12-18months, I confided in my mum and I ended up at Hypnotherapy. Although I don’t think I was ever ‘hypnotized’ I learnt a lot in my session. The number 1 thing, was I was spreading myself too thin. How on earth was I supposed to perform 10 different tasks at 100% capacity, 7 days a week? We are not designed for this level of multi-tasking! It actually decreases our productivity, a Stanford Research Paper found that people who worked 70hrs per week didn’t actually get more done than those who worked a 56 hour week. Dr John Pencavel (2014 report) states ‘We are not wired to be productive every minute of every day’
We may be able to do 10 things at once….sometimes….but how efficiently? And for how long can we sustain it?
Think of your brain as a pie chart, if you cut the pie into the number of activities, each section is small and has a low % of the entire pie.
Guy Winch, PHD, Author of Emotional First Aid: practical strategies for treating failure, rejection, guilt and other everyday psychological injuries says: “What you call multi-tasking is really task-switching. When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount. Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears – plus you never get fully ‘in the zone’ for either activity”
It is in my nature to complete a task to my best possible capability. I simply cannot go through life, merely ticking boxes and not feeling what I am doing. I am of a firm belief, that if you are truly present with your activity, whatever it is, then even the most mundane of tasks can be satisfying and meaningful. It is all about the happiness tree that we have access to within our own bodies. Being in a positive state has a significant impact on our motivation, productivity and wellbeing. Feeling good about completing a task to the best of your ability gives us a dopamine-hit, resulting in a surge of motivating pleasure. Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important and wards away loneliness and depression. Without this regular ‘high’ from achieving my daily goals to a high standard I was suffering a happy hormonal hangover!
Following on from my hypnotherapy learnings……I carried on the same way for almost another year, trying to put things in place to help but nothing was working. Ultimately I had to make a change but what? I needed the money from my full time job because it was security and my freelance work was not a 100% reliable source of income. Group Exercise and 121 sessions gave me the most pleasure. I thought long and hard and eventually in late 2013 I quit my full-time job. Man….it was scary! A secure, monthly salary, gone, just because I couldn’t cope. I felt like I had failed myself and that I should have been able to do it all.
However…..just 2 weeks in I felt a sense of balance start to creep into my life. A month in, I had the passion back that I had lost and I felt excited about meeting new people and seeing how I could help them. Just to be clear, at this point I am still Pt’ing 10 x a week and teaching 13 classes a week but I have dropped the 34hrs management role.
6 months in I had a healthy workload. 3 years in I was in such a good place that I had the space to follow my heart and I realised I wanted to specialise in something…..an area that had begun to ignite a fire in me that was growing day by day, that I couldn’t stop doing or thinking about – YOGA!
I understand that not all situations are the same as mine and I was lucky to have a support network around me when I needed it. I know for other people, change may not be as straight forward but I also know that doing more and more and more and not listening to the whispers of your heart is not going to make you successful or happy. Regularly underperforming at tasks, you know you can do better at is soul destroying and is putting you on a path of un-fulfilment and anxiety.
We all have bad or sleepy days where we are not at 100%, that is totally normal. When those days turn into weeks it’s a recipe for potential long-term unhappiness. If the weeks turn into months, you will find it difficult to see the wood through the trees….stop….assess….take action. Your natural happy hormone system should drip-feed you those all-important ‘highs’ that are essential for biochemical balance. If you are struggling on a regular basis, there is likely to be a glitch in this system. That fulfilling positive hormonal response is not a luxury, it is a necessity for brain health. Don’t ignore the signs.
Multi-Tasking is ok in moderation but not long term.
Always ask yourself if your regular tasks are resulting in a positive feeling.
Your life is in your own hands.
If you would like to chat to me about this topic or anything that this topic might have brought up for you, then please please please, get in touch. Sometimes just talking to someone, especially someone outside of your close circle, can be highly beneficial for clarity. I have been working closely with clients for 10 years and in this time I have self-educated across various subjects. I am not a doctor, or an expert but I am a good listener and I have a lot of stored information that might just possibly help you in some small way. I have been able to help many others by just pointing them in the right direction or recommending a specialist or showing you how you are not alone. It might just be a conversation that changes your whole life.
YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.
Thank you for reading.
I hope you make a positive change to your task switching, from today onwards!
“To do 2 things at once is to do neither” – Wildmind
Michelle / Shelly / YogaISH! x