There's a great scene in the movie Office Space, where the secretary is needling the main character for not being chirpier as he drags himself into the office. "Looks like somebody's got a case of the Mondays," she says, not knowing he has just battled stop-and-go traffic, ducked-and-dived to avoid seeing his slimy boss, and skulked into his cubicle only to be interrupted by the sound of an annoying colleague on the phone. (It's a hysterical film, and I highly recommend it for some silly Sunday fun.)
I love that case-of-the-Mondays quote because it captures so succinctly the feeling that so many of us have at the beginning of the week. And even now, eight-plus years into being my own boss, Mondays can sometimes fill me with dread at all the stuff I have to do.
But one of the magic tricks that I picked up years ago that has helped me cope better with that "Monday" feeling is this: reframing all of the things I feel I have to do, into things that I get to do.
It's a small mental shift, but it can have a powerful effect on how we perceive the day, week, and tasks ahead. Because it reminds us that we are lucky, even if only in a small way, to have the opportunity and the ability to do the things we do.
I don't HAVE to review my P&Ls, I GET to review them because I am in the happy position of being a director of two successful businesses and have a powerful brain that enables me to decipher numbers. I don't HAVE to take my daughters to nursery, I GET to walk them there because I am the lucky parent of two amazing children and have a healthy, functioning body that enables me to walk fast while pushing a stroller. I don't HAVE to get back in touch with a corporate client, I GET to email them because I have worked hard to develop the strong reputation I have, and others want to work with me.
Do you see how the energy changes almost immediately? Very quickly we can go from feeling put upon and burdened to feeling lucky and energized.
That's the power of what we "get" to do.
This may not work every time, but it has a pretty good track record, and is a quick and easy way to change the way we feel about what's ahead of us. Little shifts like this, little energy boosts, little mental reframings, they all add up over the course of a day, a week, a lifetime, and before we know it, we've become do-ers instead of complainers, activated instead of deadened.
So the next time we catch ourselves dragging our feet, hitting the snooze, moaning about what we have to do, let's remind ourselves that we get to do it, too. And not everyone is so lucky.
Over this long COVID period, many of us have gotten used to multi-tasking. We've made endless snacks while hosting conference calls. Taken Zoom with us into our bathrooms (yeah, you know you did!). Worked on product pitches while perfecting our Disney-song pitch. Typed up emails while spending "quality" time with our loved ones.
And while multi-tasking was one of our biggest allies during COVID, I think it's important to remember that it's really an enemy wearing a very friendly smile.
Now, I get it. We all wear many hats and sometimes all those hats are screaming to be put on at the same time. But if we are honest with ourselves, can we really say we got 10 things done to the same quality as if we had done each one of those things in turn? And did we really need to do those 10 things all at once anyway?
For me, I know the answer is no. Because there is a massive difference between multi-tasking and making efficient use of our time.
When I take an honest assessment of the times I have been a multi-tasking fool, I find it's most dangerous when I am trying to do something business-critical but allow myself to get pulled into the low value tasks just to get them out of the way. In my attempt to declutter my to-do list of the mundane, I end diluting or prolonging the important.
And that's why multi-tasking is a false economy. We delude ourselves into thinking we are getting a lot done, instead of appreciating we're just doing a lot. And doing isn't the same as accomplishing. In our crazy go-go-go world, we have lost sight of the importance of true focus. In our endless impatience to get to the end, we have confused quantity with quality.
On this crazy English day, when even the weather seems to be multi-tasking, all I am suggesting is that we get real about the false economy of multi-tasking and try to unitask instead.
And when that multi-tasking siren starts tempting us towards distraction and ruin, let's at least try to steer her to the low value things (brushing while showering, ordering groceries while walking, making social plans while cooking...) and harness our best and our focus for our most important work instead.