Identifying when it’s time to focus on just one thing

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I identify as a multipotentialite. A multipotentialite is defined by Puttlylike (the website where I discovered the idea) as “someone with many interests and creative pursuits”, and on Wikipedia as someone with

“diverse interests across numerous domains [who] may be capable of success in many endeavors or professions, they are confronted with unique decisions as a result of these choices.” – Wikipedia entry on multipotentiality, also found on this Puttylike page.

This week I discovered what one of these unique decisions is: the ability to recognise when it’s time to zoom in and focus on just one thing.

What happened this week

I think I’ve been a bit of a work zombie this week. It started alright, usual routines and happiness resolutions. Walks in the park, 3 item to-do lists, no multi-tasking. But it ended with what I can only identify as a panic attack, so clearly something didn’t go so well. By my last Skype meeting on Friday I was totally wiped out. Not just tired, but pretty out of it exhausted.

I felt I was in a place where I could easily slip back into my old ways of working all the time. Never having any breaks or paying attention to self-care.

How I’ve evaluated this

Past me might have brushed this off as over-work, and carried on as normal after a brief rest. Present me knows this is not the way to a happy, healthy person so I took to my April Happiness Project resolutions and evaluated the situation. I looked at where I’d been applying my effort this week and what I realised was I didn’t zoom in when I needed to.

Focusing on one thing

For the past two weeks pretty much every work-day has been spent writing a big funding application for my theatre company. I’ve been on Skype for at least 2 hours a day with my co-artistic director doing the application together. This collaborative working is great, but I don’t think I factored in how much working continuously on this would take from me.

I’ve been putting 3 things on my to-do list as normal, because I have so many different projects to work on! Plus, as a multipotentialite, I enjoy splitting my focus. I don’t want to give one thing my sole focus for the majority of my week, but this week might have played out differently had I done that. In retrospect it’s pretty obvious this thing was screaming for my sole attention as it was taking up such a big chunk of each day.

BUT…

So yes, perhaps this week would have been less zombie-fied if I’d identified the need to focus solely on this application. My brain basically did this anyway, whilst I was also trying to focus on other stuff. Tune in to yourself Ellen!

The trouble is this funding application is definitely not meaningful work to me. I dislike doing it. If you’re reading this and thinking ‘man, I LOVE writing funding applications. That is totally meaningful work to me’ please get in touch. Anyway, I am not one of those people (although I’m told they do exist…hello?); writing a funding application is, however, a way for me to get to do meaningful work (make theatre) and get paid for it. That is something I do care about, but it doesn’t solve the issue that this wasn’t a task I’d excitedly give away my sole focus to.

Zooming in, but building in tinkering time

I recently read an article written by Neil Hughes on the Puttylike website about the multipotentialite strategy of building tinkering time into your day. This is time put aside (say 40 minutes) to fiddle around with whatever it is you’ve been interested in lately (learning a new language, or instrument etc). It’s kind of like play time, and to continue using my filmmaking metaphor it’s like moving the zoomed in camera briefly over to another object to give the eyes a break.

The key thing to remember here is tinkering time isn’t time to work on a different project. That’s the mistake I made. I tried to fit in working on multiple important projects, without evaluating the toll this big application would take. Perhaps the solution to a multipotentialite deciding to zoom in and focus on one thing is to remember to build in tinkering time as well. It’s definitely a strategy I’m going to try.

What do you think? Have you experienced this problem, and do you have any strategies to deal with it?

About ecarr

Ellen is a writer and theatre maker who has just taken the freelance plunge after too many years of 9-5 office life. She is a yoga teacher in training and passionate about pursuing your dreams.

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