Divide or Conquer

Many people will probably recognize this situation, as I see it happening all around me.
When you are working in a fast-paced organization you will probably get opportunities on a regular basis. However, your existing work will generally not be ending or handed over as quickly as the new work starts.
As you want to seize the opportunity of starting that cool new role, or that fun and challenging new project, you agree to, or decide to do both your existing and your new role or project.

I always felt that I’m able to handle multiple roles or projects. I work pretty quick and I have a good memory, which helps when you have to switch context.
A few months ago though, I found myself with only one role for the first time in a long time. And it was GREAT. It turns out that even though it’s possible to have more than one role or project, it’s still a lot easier and nicer to only have one.

There are a couple of things that made it so nice:

  • While it’s possible to multitask, it’s a lot more effective to focus on a single job at a time. It means that I was not just able to do the bare minimum, but I was able to think about a task or situation for a bit longer and in some cases come up with better or nicer ways to handle them.
  • When working on more than one project or task doesn’t mean you can plan them neatly one after the other. Usually both will require urgent attention at the same time, leaving you struggling to take care of both. As I’m a perfectionist that is not a nice feeling. I have long given up on being able to do my work “perfectly” as there will never be time for it and in most cases, it’s inefficient as well. But having to take care of two urgent jobs at the same time will mean stress, long days and less patience with people and situations.
  • Another nice side effect of only doing one role was that I was able to finish work approximately within work hours. I could do the work really well and still finish mostly on time. Also, as switching context a lot drains your energy, I also had more energy left to do other things in the evenings, like going for a run, or having dinner with friends.

I’m able to do this clear analysis, because I have multiple roles again now and I can clearly tell the difference. I did it to myself too, no one forced me to pick up another role. It looks like for the foreseeable future I will be using a bit more energy and hours for work. But perhaps I will have learned from this experience and this insight will help me when I’m in a situation where I can chase after an extra role again next time. One can always hope!

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