Learn and Manage Your Limits

Many women believe that they have a natural propensity to multitask.  In fact, there are those who proudly brag that woman are much more competent at multitasking than men. However, has it ever been scientifically proven?

The short answer is yes! A recent study run by psychologists in the UK  has demonstrated that the men in the sample were slower and less organised than the women when switching rapidly between tasks.  Both sexes were given eight minutes to complete a series of identical tasks – locating restaurants on a map, doing simple maths problems, answering a phone call, and deciding how they would search for a lost key in a field.

Completing all these assignments in eight minutes was impossible – so it forced both groups to prioritise, organise their time, and keep calm under pressure. Women proved to be less impulsive, and more considered at the beginning of the process, suggesting that, in a stressed and complex situation – women are more able to stop and think about what is going on in front of them.

That said; when we are constantly putting ourselves under pressure and juggling our time and energy, how sustainable is it and how long will it take before we reach a point where we are actually being less productive?

Learning Our Limits

As primitive humans, we developed the fight or flight response as a survival strategy. This is our automatic reaction to a threat, which triggers a cascade of responses designed to sharpen our focus and quicken our step to get away from danger. It’s now ingrained in us.

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In today’s more complex world, psychologists note that many of the stressors we experience, such as time pressures, workload problems, relationship issues and health worries can regularly trigger the same fight/flight response.

In some people this can last for days, weeks, months, and even years.

This continuous reaction is known to be a key factor in causing stress related illness and psychologists are warning that the excessive physical and emotional demands that we set for ourselves are laying the foundations for ill health.

In our quest to be everything to everyone, including meeting all our families’ needs, we feel pressure to be many things to many people: a supportive spouse; an involved parent; to have an accomplished career; engage our children in academic/sport/musical activities; act as family social convener; an efficient home administrator; travel agent; exercise and stay fit; have a hobby, participate in a club etc. And so the list goes on and on.

Managing Our Limits

In the business world, a successful organisation will help individuals adapt their roles to their abilities and share tasks with co-workers.

The same model can be successfully applied to the domestic situation.  While many of us are fortunate enough to be able to employ a helper as an ‘extra pair of hands’, there can still be a deficit where more qualified and skilled assistance is required. However, recognising whether or not you require more sophisticated support and where that support can be provided turns out to be one of the big blockers to action.

This is because the actual process of identifying discrete tasks to delegate and then investing the time to explain your needs to someone you feel confident will be able to execute them properly may in itself seem like too big an undertaking.  Why not just wait and do it yourself?  What is required is an investment in a relationship with an assistant that understands your domestic set up and how you want to work and communicate.  This might take some time to research and establish a strong working relationship.  But it’s a better option to not getting things done.

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For many people, this process also introduces the notion of value of their time.  It is a sobering experience to start putting a price on the domestic and administrative things you need to get sorted over and above what your helper can do.

Investing in a Supportive Relationship

If a tap is leaking, we call a plumber. Why shouldn’t we do the same if we need help with important home administration, for example visa and passport applications, wifi access in kids bedroom, children’s school and activities calendars, building problems… of course, the list is endless and to a large degree unpredictable.

In the US, the solution for a long time now has been to develop a relationship with a personal assistance service.  This solution is now well-established and becoming an option in Australia and UK where people wish to protect their available time for more valuable pursuits.

With a personal assistant service you develop a long term but flexible relationship which can accommodate your changing needs and has the depth of staff to respond effectively.  And when it is beyond your personal assistant’s comfort zone they put you in touch with tried and tested suppliers.  A bit like your relationship with the family doctor’s surgery but with less anxiety!

Managing your ‘things to do’ list as opposed to trying to perform every task on it, will allow you to not only maximise the value of your time, but ensure that tasks are done in a timely manner by people with the right skills.

At the heart of this relationship is the realisation that your time is finite and to be happy you need to spend it on the things that really matter to you, and not be distracted by less valuable tasks.

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So next time you are reflecting on your stubbornly persistent to do list, start mulling over if ‘outsource to assistant’ might be the solution.

“My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” Steve Jobs


Caroline B is a Hong Kong based bespoke personal management and assistance service, run by Caroline Basham.  She and her team work as your personal administrators providing confidential support and assistance, where and when you need it.  Caroline B has become established by helping clients fully realise the value of their time.  In practical terms, this means providing solutions for everything from everyday domestic support to more complex affairs.  Clients benefit from Caroline B’s deep knowledge of how to get things done in and around Hong Kong.

If you would like to know more about how Caroline B can make a difference in your life, please visit their website at: www.caroline-b.hk  

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