Multitasking is possible, but it’s more complicated than we think

Back when I was still working in a hotel, one of my main jobs in the afternoon was to send the invoices of all the guests that checked out during the day. I’d have to go through each account one by one, determine which folio to send, and ensure that I send it to the correct email address. The whole process would take about an hour and a half to finish, and I kept doing this job for a year and a half. By then, I was so good at sending invoices that I could do it within 30–45mins while effectively listening to an audiobook, or holding a conversation with a guest on the phone.

I know the feeling so well. The task completely blurs out of my cognition, and I could use my full attention to do whatever I please. It’s like playing the piano and singing at the same time, which is another form of multitasking.

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Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

I am becoming a morning person

So here’s the thing: I didn’t actually work to be a morning person, I just kind of fell into it as a leaf would from a tree. I’ve barely had great mornings in my entire lifetime, so I was never a fan of departing from a dream.

However, I have recently moved back to the Philippines from Sydney, Australia, which was 3 hours ahead from Manila. So when I wake up at 5AM in the morning, I’m essentially waking up at my regular schedule of 8AM in Sydney. Jet lag was how this whole thing started.

Now you may not know me yet, internet, but this is shocking news. I was getting a serious case of cognitive dissonance when I first realised that this change was happening in my body, and trust me, I retaliated. I told myself that I did not consent to this, but my sleep was not a democracy.

I was irritable for a few days, but eventually, I was forced to adapt. And the more I’m evicted out of my bed before daybreak, the more I understood why so many people do it.

It’s a different kind of world in the morning, like opening a secret bank account filled with money you never knew you had. And the good news is that no one usually bothers you that early, so all that currency is YOURS.

I know it sounds like I’m selling a pyramid scheme, but hear me out for a minute. And maybe after this, you can sign yourself up for a free seven-day trial.

Here’s why you should try it:

Take a moment of peace
We are all sensitive to our environment, more than we care to admit. So if you wake up at a time when your neighbours are already banging away in their kitchen, it can be hard to find another opportunity to have a quiet time, especially if you have a day job.

It’s a lot for our brain to be exposed to noises for an entire day, and that overload of information is what makes us so tired and wanting more sleep in the night.

But if you keep yourself from pressing that snooze button in the morning, and instead spend a few minutes resting in wakefulness, you already have a moment of tranquillity that you can carry with you in your lunchbox for later consumption.

They roll over you know. That zen quality of the mind is abundant in the morning when everything is still quiet. So start accruing moments of peace, that they may tip over and manifest throughout your days.

Finish the day early
The feeling of being productive is grounded in knowing that the things you absolutely need to do are actually finished.

Getting a headstart in the morning gives me at least 3–4 hours of uninterrupted work, which usually gets the job done like a prayer. That may be lesser for people who have a full-time job, but if you can get at least 1–2 hours of your day to do something meaningful to you, it can have a significant effect on how you perceive the rest of your day.

For me, once I know I’ve put down a minimum word count, and read a few chapters or articles online, I can spend the rest of the day doing whatever I want without the guilt that I’m not being productive. It’s nice to eat lunch knowing that my day is done, and I can spend the rest of the afternoon watching Netflix and be totally chill.

Mornings are a great way to start a ritual
You know that thing you said you’d do better at in 2019? Well, this is the perfect time to do it. That “don’t mess with me” death stare in the morning is a powerful defence mechanism to ward off people and devices who are all competing for your attention. And less interaction means less distraction, so it’s easier to focus on a single task. Why not use that time to focus on a ritual?

It doesn’t have to be complicated at first you know. It can be as simple as making your bed, doing a few situps, and brushing your teeth. Anything physical that tells your body that it’s time to start your day, and preferably something that does not involve diving headfirst into a sea of distraction.

Once you get used to a ritual, you can start adding more things into it, like a 15-minute workout, cooking your own breakfast, or reading the news. A good foundation is very important if you want to build something. And a good foundation, when translated into a mental process is merely a structure.

Bang your own drum
Sometimes, you can have your entire day planned out, and you completely miss it from the very beginning because your monkey brain is so susceptible to being sidetracked. It’s hard to recover from that, and catching up for lost time is going to be even harder from there.

I recently discovered that anything I do in the morning reverberates throughout my day. If I work at a slow pace in the morning, I’m more likely to be slow in the afternoon as well. So if I start my day with a structure that follows a steady beat, it’s easier to keep my flow in that same rhythm.

Getting used to a structure is like a noise-cancelling headphone. Your concentration sharpens, you are able to prioritise easily, and you naturally harness the skill to tune everyone out, especially when you are dancing to the beat of your own schedule.

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I’ve always thought that being a morning person was never possible for me. As I said, I’ve had extremely few glorious mornings in the past, so I didn’t think I would ever love doing it on the regular.

But if anything else, I learned that our capacity for change is greater than our own identity. There are no morning birds, and night owls, there is only our ability to adapt.