How A Month In Costa Rica Led Me To Quit Multi-tasking

DSC01865When I left for Costa Rica mid January I was a big bundle of stress. I was suffering with insomnia and almost constant heart palpitations, living in a constant whirl of anxiety, adrenaline and pressure.

You see, since having my beautiful son and beginning my own unschooling journey, I have been giving myself permission to try so many new things. This is how I found my passion for writing, and the reason I began this site. I was collecting passions fast and as such, my to do list was slowly growing out of control.

Before I left for Costa Rica I was doing the following things:

  • Full time stay at home mum to a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, frequently waking three year old.
  • Parenting writer and author
  • Just finished my first novel
  • Running a childminding (daycare) business part time
  • Trying to get my new etsy shop Blue Zen Designs selling gemstone jewellery off the ground
  • Writing a series of children’s books
  • Teaching myself to draw in the hopes of illustrating said series

I had so many pots on the fire that I was completely overwhelmed. My focus was so divided that nothing ever got my full attention and as a result every single thing suffered. No matter what I was working on I always felt guilty that I wasn’t doing something else. I could literally never relax and went to bed every night with my mind whirring, feeling like I was drowning under the (self imposed) pressure.

I love what Marie Forleo describes herself as – A multi passionate entrepreneur, but a key point I clearly overlooked is that yes, you can have several passions in life, and yes, you absolutely should give yourself permission to explore the things you are drawn to, but you simply cannot try and make each of them your full time work. You will burn out, just as I did.

My goal for my trip was to get myself out of this cycle of stress. I wanted to feel like me again. I took writing pads, drawing pads, pens, pencils, paint and a mountain of books with me, but I made a rule. This was that I would not do a single thing that I didn’t want to do on this trip. I could do as much as I wanted, but I didn’t have to lift a pen unless I really wanted to. No deadlines, no targets, no goals, no stress.

Wouldn’t you know it, within two days of being on foreign lands I realised my heart palpitations had stopped. I began to sleep really, really well at night. I even took afternoon naps! I picked up my illustrations once or twice during the first two weeks working on them for half an hour or so each time, but they soon became forgotten at the bottom of my backpack.

I relaxed. I sunbathed. I played with my son. I had real conversations with my husband and laughed with him, and found time to sit down and watch a movie with him in the evenings. I couldn’t believe how I had let myself get so busy to the point where I had totally neglected my marriage. I realised how much I had missed him.

And then, my head started to overflow with thoughts and ideas and my fingers itched to write them down. I wrote and I wrote. I finished ten articles for Love Parenting, just because they were bursting to get out. I outlined an idea for a future novel. I spent a lot of time thinking about my childminding business, how to make it better for the children, environments I wanted to create for them to explore, and ways to make the paperwork more streamlined.

I realised that I had let myself become carried away with excitement over the realisation that I could learn to draw and that I was actually far better than I’d ever imagined I could be after just a few days of copying and learning from good old youtube. In school I was led to believe that drawing (and art) was a talent for a select few, and that did not include me. I destroyed the image I had of myself, the notion that I couldn’t draw, and with this realisation came the understanding that I could be and do ANYTHING I put my mind to.

The message I am constantly trying to express to my son finally came through to me too, and I felt full of potential and excitement. As it turns out, I have realised that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you have to. After exploring this new skill I have decided to keep it as a hobby and source another illustrator for my children’s books. I have also made the decision to keep my jewellery shop as a hobby business and I felt an enormous weight lift from my shoulders as I gave myself permission to make jewellery for fun, as and when I really feel like it.

I feel clear on what my passions are now, and if I’m honest, I knew all along what I really wanted to do with my life. I am passionate about childcare – raising my son and caring for the children who I childmind. For me, childcare and child development has always and will always be important to me.

And I am without a doubt, a writer. I can’t not write! I also can’t seem to narrow down my area of writing. I love writing about parenting just as much as I enjoy creating a fictional world for a novel or a children’s book.

I still have a long to do list of things to work on for my childminding and for my writing projects, but I have decided to take each one at a time, seeing it to completion and giving it my full attention and focus before moving on to the next.

I am officially quitting multi-tasking. Not only that but I’m quitting deadlines too. I’m taking the pressure off and getting right back to the raw passion that led my path at the beginning. I’m holding on to the balance I’ve finally found and learning it’s OK to let things go when they aren’t quite right for me. I can’t do everything at once, and I’m finally OK with that.

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9 thoughts on “How A Month In Costa Rica Led Me To Quit Multi-tasking”

  1. I am so glad you got to relax a bit. I can relate in a way. I don’t do anything for making money yet. I would like to but only one thing. You have a lot on your shoulders. Ouf!!!! However I have several hobbies and do little by little. I want to do so much but then I remind myself that I am a mother first and chose to rest if I am tired to not be too grumpy. Lol.
    I enjoyed your article and it’s nice to get to know you a little more

    1. Exactly, sometimes it is so important to stop and think about what is really important – the little boy asking for my attention is my main priority. It is so good to get some balance and focus on how I spend my time. Thanks so much for your comment! I think hobbies are a great way for busy parents to get some “me time” and just because they don’t necessarily contribute financially, they are so important to make time for too.

  2. It’s a bit maddening to have so many ideas and so little ability to manifest. At least that’s how I feel as a business-owning mom. Back before I had my own child, I encountered a couple women who were simultaneously considering a new career in Pilates and becoming moms. I remember thinking that they were crazy to consider a new career in conjunction with being moms. But then I became a mom and like you I discovered my penchant for writing. In little time, my ideas and ambitions were getting ahead of my reality. I’ve had to check myself more times than I can count because my life has far too many limiting factors for all my ideas to be manifested by me. Anyway, there certainly seems to be some link between being a mom and finding our creative voices and then learning how to handle the great expansion that both roles include. Thanks for sharing your process, it’s affirming to us all.

    1. Oh I know, there are so many ideas I have that I have to put a stop to before they even get going, simply because I just can’t fit it all in. Much happier now that I am able to focus my attention on one thing at a time. And I have to remind myself, there will be plenty of time in the future to do the other things if I still want to. I actually find working this way makes me so much more productive, so I am more likely to get through each task and have room for something new. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Wow, Samantha! I’m so happy for you that you had this life-changing experience. I recently had a similar journey (though not in a place as amazing as Costa Rica! So jealous!) and came out with a lot of the same conclusions. When those realizations hit, they hit HARD, and you can’t NOT act on them. So beyond happy for you. (And for everyone you’re sharing this with who can learn from your experience!)

  4. Wow…Silly as it seems, I had tears in my eyes reading this! I feel like I fit completely your description of your “pre-Costa Rica” multi-tasking, crazy and stressed self. What an amazing self-discovery. I need it. I am going to dig deep into this one, for sure. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Thank you so much for writing this! I am right there with you and when you said “just because you CAN do something, doesnt mean you SHOULD.” I really struggle there. I find I am talented at a lot of things and all my friends are constantly telling me that I should go into business making this or consulting that or whatever. And I have to really reign myself in to the few things that bring me joy!

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