EVERYDAY OVERACHIEVEMENT (AKA THE ART OF DOING LOTS OF THINGS BADLY)

I get distracted easily. Actually, that’s not strictly true; I tend to get intensely busy with several things at the same time easily.

When I’m doing a chore, such as cleaning the dishes, I’ll remember that I need to hang out the washing and I’ll start doing that as well so that I don’t forget. As soon as I step outside and head towards the clothes line, I’ll see that the garden is covered in leaves and I’ll look around for the brush to start clearing them up. Then I’ll notice that next door’s ivy has started squeezing the life out of something growing on my side of the wall, and I’ll go back inside to find something to attack it with. It doesn’t particularly bother me that I am built this way because, come what may, I always get things done.

Whenever I find myself spinning a lot of plates I’m reminded of a conversation I once had with the editor of my book – It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy. She also edited one of Headspace founder and mindfulness guru Andy Puddicombe’s books – Get Some Headspace – and once made me laugh with a story about his complete despair when she told him about how she would eat toast and draw the curtains (or something like that) at the same time. He believes in doing everything mindfully, which kind of means being present in each single thing you do. One thing at a time.

I love the idea of this and I try to practice certain elements of it everyday, but I also accept myself for who I am. After all, I breath, think, move and live simultaneously, so if I can do several other things concurrently then I can be content in the convenient conclusion that I have drawn: I’m an overachiever.

Sometimes, though, I think many of us need to rein in all the overthinking for the sake of our own mental health.

Earlier this week I was ‘overachieving’ in my kitchen – making my dinner, clearing up the dishes from Jackson’s and his friend’s, carefully crafting some date and cashew breakfast bars, watching the semi final of the Women’s World Cup, thinking about doing some ironing, editing a website, and secretly eating Fruit Pastilles behind my son’s back – when I realised that the spatula I’d used for the breakfast bars felt a little heavier than it usually might. I had scrubbed it with the rough side of a sponge, plunged it into the soapy water-filled food processor and run it under the hot tap before I realised my error: it was my mobile phone.

Aside from being the same colour, the two items had very little in common. One, for example, is designed to be infinitely more water resistant than the other. The other, aside from offering me the potential for access to innumerable internet-based recipes, isn’t very useful at scraping away chia seeds from a mixing bowl.

As I realised what I’d done, I whispered every swear word I could remember, dried off the phone and then threw it into a bag of rice (I’d half-read this somewhere once while doing something else). I then found an article about why not to do this and spent the rest of the evening trying to pick grains of rice out of the phone’s charging port.

Fortunately, I wrote this blog post on the same iPhone after the event so it still appears to be functioning as before. It did make me think about how infrequently we tend to commit to doing one thing at a time, though. We half-watch TV while we comment on it on social media; we go to concerts and festivals but watch them through our screens as we film snippets that we’ll probably never play again; we make our kids smile for the camera when they aren’t even necessarily happy wherever we’ve taken them.

The next day I fully applied myself and concentrated on doing something I’d been putting off for too long. I sat down and did all my accounting and financial planning for the rest of the year. Then I cleaned my house without even trying to use my phone as a scourer. With both jobs fully completed, I felt the satisfaction you only experience when you finish things properly. Two jobs that were on my mind for a while had been dealt with and I could move on. Maybe it’s time for me to get more mindful with the Magimix after all.