There are many different kinds of multipotentialites. Barbara Sher breaks it down into several specific categories (the “double agent” the “sybill,” etc. My approach is a little less sophisticated.
I like to think that multipods exist on a spectrum of sequential to simultaneous. On the sequential side of the spectrum there are those who love doing one thing at a time for a period of weeks, months or years, and then they switch to an entirely new thing and focus on only that. This is the person who has chosen to have six month contracts in their freelance business or the person who makes radical career shifts and changes fields entirely every few years.
Apparently, Ben Franklin would get things done by dedicating 13 weeks to accomplishing one goal and then 13 weeks for the next. This is a great example of working in sequence.
On the simultaneous side of the spectrum, you have the plate-spinner: someone who thrives having twenty different projects on the go at any one time. This person might choose to have a career that requires them to work with big teams across multiple disciplines, wear many hats and shift roles frequently.
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this simultaneous-sequential spectrum and sometimes we slink along the spectrum, depending on the nature of our goals and where we’re at internally.
I got an email from a multipotentialite the other day who told me that he was conflicted because his main focus right now is college basketball. But at the same time he has music, software and movie ideas that keep popping up and getting his wheels turning.
One of the ways to approach this is to set an hour aside each day for your projects. Set a timer and declare it “tinkering time” (or something of that nature). That way you don’t start resenting your main focus for holding you back from your other interests.
The other approach is one that this young multipod suggested himself. It’s the sequential approach. You dedicate a period of weeks or months to one project and wear only that hat, dive in fully, and put your other projects on the back-burner for a while. You can also assign your other projects to future months to make it easier on you.
Both approaches can work, and it really depends on the nature of your projects and on where you fall on the spectrum. In this case, he said that the basketball lifestyle and music/media/arts lifestyle were too different in nature and he was having a hard time pivoting between them, always feeling like he wasn’t making enough progress on either. In this case, I agree that the sequential approach makes a lot of sense.
At the same time, I often hear from multipotentialites who have one primary focus and are starting to feel antsy that they aren’t getting to pursue their other passions (I get this question from college students a lot). In this scenario, I would recommend dedicating period of time each day for your other interests.
The key here is using a timer. Or even dedicating one day at the end of your week to your other interests. Just make it a defined amount of time so you don’t start to feel guilty for neglecting your primary focus. Your “tinkering time” can even be used as a reward for when you get a lot done.
Where do you fall on the simultaneous-sequential spectrum? How do you deal with competing goals pulling for your attention?
Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist. Learn more about Emilie here.