In our world today, multi-tasking seems to be the norm. Rarely do we do one thing at a time. While on the train, we’re checking emails on the phone, updating our status on Facebook, or conversing in a chat group. Even when watching TV, I find myself jabbing at the iPad playing a game or doing a digital jigsaw puzzle.

Sometimes I wonder – especially when my phone is far, far away from me – how efficient is this multi-tasking? Am I really accomplishing more?

When it comes to work, multi-task is what we usually do. In our small business, we cannot afford to just focus on one project at a time (unless it is a huge one) and so we juggle a number of projects as long as we can be sure that we can complete each one well according to their own timeline.

So in a typical week, I would be copywriting a script on Monday, doing an interview on Tuesday, have a meeting for a separate project on Wednesday and in-between transcribing past interviews, or writing bids for new projects. It makes for a interesting week but the jumping back and forth to projects is not good for all subjects.

Writing in particular, whether it be for an exhibition or publication (especially a longer article or book), requires a more singular focus. I usually need to be fully immersed in the subject and thinking about the various aspects of it to have the clarity and content to do a good job. Getting involved in an unrelated topic, which can be sparked by a simple email or message, can set my mind spiraling into an unproductive tangent. Yet in today’s world, it is virtually impossible to cut off from the emails and messages. Yesterday I got a chat message from a friend who was climbing the Himalayas!

The solution for me it to block off as long a period as possible to write, restricting email and phone checking just during meal breaks. When the deadline is tight, I also cancel all appointments and avoid any social gatherings.

I remember working on one project like that a couple of years ago and the deadline was so tight I did not go out in weeks. I ate food out of a bowl in front of the computer and passed out to sleep at night. When I eventually emerged from my cocoon many weeks later, my clothes were out of fashion and there were new buildings in town. Despite this, I was very happy that I was able to complete a good piece of work within the ambitious deadline. Furthermore, even though I looked a mess, I was very happy in my warm, safe writing cocoon.

So now, I have just eagerly dived into my writing cocoon again to complete a deadline at the end of the month. You probably won’t hear from me till December, have a fun month!

~ Stephanie

In the Workroom: Multi-task or focus?