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Generation Juggle

The shackle of 24 hours can’t stop us. We are the masters of our own time,” says Mumbai-based Videsh Patel. Patel, 25, is a web designer, a freelance copywriter, a professional tennis player, a mosaic sculptor and a drummer. How does he manage it all? “Well, I am a multi-tasker.”

Bangalore-based Sunjay Gupta is juggling his BPO job with a hotel management course and a diploma in French. The 26-year-old has enrolled for an online body art course at the Tattoo Body Piercing Institute in New York. He plays the saxophone in night clubs and is a wrestler.

Athar Hosain, 24, is pursuing his Masters in Computer Applications from St Xavier’s College, Calcutta. He also works as an assistant film director, researches for and acts in documentaries, invests in shares and treks.

Multi-tasking is the latest buzzword. Starting from psychologists to trend analysts and educators, everybody agrees that it has taken over the younger generation. Gone are the days when doing just one thing and doing it well was the ultimate mantra. Today, youngsters are more interested in branching out and exploring the variables of life. Starting from traditional music, art and languages, to the unconventional tattoo art, training in mimicry or part-time bartending — youngsters are doing it all.

A random survey conducted by The Telegraph in the 19-28 age group — in an income bracket of Rs 18,000 and above — underlines that 24 hours are being squeezed to the last second. Of those surveyed, 70 per cent were found to be multi-taskers. While 58 per cent of them were doing more than four things together at any given point of time, 22 per cent said they were juggling about five things together. Twelve per cent said they were comfortable doing six to seven things together on a weekly basis.

“Multi-tasking is a matter of determination,” says 26-year-old Sayan Bhattacharya. “It’s like aggravating your metabolic rate by exercising and wanting to do more.” Bhattacharya, who is doing his PhD in environmental sciences from Calcutta University, is also an avid photographer with a passion for Hindustani classical music and art.

Rabindrabharati University economics lecturer Swati Ghosh has just completed a survey — as part of a national study on youth — for the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

Ghosh’s findings reveal that today’s youth are essentially multi-taskers. “The choice of profession is no longer slighted. Rather, embodied work opportunities are sought after equally by young men and women, for they fetch money, glamour, security and social prestige.” This uninhibited approach of both families and youngsters has expanded the professional canvas, thus encouraging youngsters to try out more things.

“If youngsters today are multi-tasking, it’s because it helps them widen their opportunities,” asserts Amit C. Majumdar, principal director, Pailan College of Management and Technology, near Calcutta.

Not surprisingly, multi-tasking has started to figure in today’s CVs. “About 60-65 per cent of the CVs that we get are from multi-taskers,” says Gurgaon-based S. Varadarajan, chief HR officer and executive vice-president of placement consultants Quatrro.

Even companies, the experts hold, prefer multi-taskers. “Look at young CEOS today,” adds Nandini Bhattacharjee, regional in charge of Mutual PR, Calcutta. “They are no longer happy doing just their job. They are willing to take on life with gusto. It may be anything — a disco, writing, film-making etc. So, naturally, the companies they head will also look for multi-taskers.”

How do multi-taskers deal with time? Professionals in time management feel that they need to mould time to suit their needs. The experts say youngsters are great executors and are able to “extract” 75 per cent of “productivity time.” Some even believe that the generation has evolved a modern concept of a personal time frame — whipping it to tame it.

Not everybody agrees. “Time is not subjective,” says Bhuban Basu, a retired chartered accountant who has held several time management training programmes. “The clock ticks the same for all of us across the earth.”

Basu believes that at the crux of multi-tasking is planning. “You can only try being masters of your work, control it and do it within your personal time frame.”

But Calcutta HRD trainer Siddhartha Ganguli, who holds time management conferences across the world, says it is indeed possible to evolve a personal time frame. To do so, he suggests multi-taskers do a 15-day time audit which includes three heads — time wasters (which you can control, such as eating faster), time killers (to be mutually controlled, such as cribbing less with colleagues), and time stealers (out-of-hand situations such as traffic jams).

“Identify these areas and start working on them to increase your productivity. This is the spine of multi-tasking. Note down whatever you have to do in the next 24 hours. Never plan for more than a day. When you are making the schedule, keep a ‘free float time’ for unscheduled things such as sudden visitors.”

Psychiatrists, however, feel there is a flipside to multi-tasking. J.R. Ram, consultant psychiatrist, Apollo Gleaneagles, feels that multi-taskers may be in constant need of high ‘simulation’ which may lead to health problems. Even if there’s no work, they may need a “pretence” of work to feel they are “doing” things. And they may lose the ability to relax, and thus become overburdened, exhausted and less creative.

Calcutta-based psychotherapist Jolly Laha says 70-80 per cent of the cases she handles relate to multi-tasking. Laha is convinced that for today’s generation, pleasure is being replaced by pressure. When a hobby is not a leisure activity, it becomes performance oriented and stressful. “Relaxation is an inevitable part of life. Over-productivity may result in an early burn out.” Other problems are stress and personality disorientation.

Ganguli, however, believes that there is pleasure in multi-tasking. “If you enjoy what you are doing, your body generates positive hormones and you feel charged to do more.” Siladitya Ray, chief consulting psychiatrist, Belle Vue Clinic and Ruby General Hospital, adds, “It is related to the changing social grid that demands individuals be versatile.”

But then, as Bhuban Basu sums up, the secret to making the most of 24 hours is a compulsory vacation — 15-30 minutes — taken every single day. It rejuvenates you — leaving you ready for more.

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