I remember listening to an interview a few months ago featuring Katie Richardson from PUJ.com, entitled “STOPPING THE GLORIFICATION OF BUSY.” It felt like brand new information that I couldn’t have articulated better myself, especially with the idea that the new response to “How are you doing?” is “Good! Busy!” as if those two things are synonymous. It has become so normal to associate “being busy” with happy, productive, and living a meaningful life that is not being wasted. I realized that especially in this digital age, multiple tabs and multiple apps are running simultaneously and it’s not uncommon. When I hear that a fellow mom is changing a diaper, preparing dinner, and running a 10k all at the same time, it’s typical. However, I wondered if these ideas were taking away from my quality of life. I was curious to know if choosing NOT to multitask would make me feel bad about myself, like I wasn’t doing enough for myself or my family, or that I was being lazy and inefficient. But for the sake of living a simpler life, I knew that I had to reflect on how much multitasking I do on an everyday basis, and whether or not it supported other goals I had in life other than just crossing off to-dos as soon as possible in order to get to bed.
As a result, I came to the conclusion that less multitasking contributes to a happier, healthier, more holistic life. I am not saying that I will never multitask again in my life. It isn’t possible. However, I don’t need to check my Instagram and Facebook while I watch my son play. I can choose to simply watch my son play. I don’t need to apply my mascara while driving work. I can wake up ten minutes earlier and apply my mascara at home, like a sane person. These, among several other ways, can limit multitasking in my and your life:
DO ONE THING AT A TIME. I know, this is a groundbreaking idea. However, I always find myself doing a simple task, only to have my mind wander into “what else can I be doing?” I feel like it will help me catch up on the world and have tons of hours saved at the end of my day, week, and life. Who am I kidding? The extra seven minutes I save in a day will just turn into another two hours of watching Netflix before bed, which counters my multitasking logic in the first place. I challenge you to see how many things you can do individually, and how many times in your day when you find yourself looking for something to do alongside it.
MAKE A LIST AHEAD OF TIME AND PRIORITIZE IDEAS. Sometimes this sounds and feels like more work, but it pays off. When I keep a list next to my bed, I can wake up in the middle of the night and write it down instead of hanging on to it for the rest of the night and the rest of the next day. When I have a list in front of me, I don’t need to constantly think, “Okay, okay, okay, what do I still need to do today?” I can focus on one idea at a time and check them off as I go. I’m sure it’s not surprising that I am a natural list person. Moreover, prioritize your tasks. What is the easiest to do? Get those done quickly and cross them off. What’s most important and time sensitive? Add those to the top of the list too and decide accordingly.
GIVE YOUR TECHNOLOGY A BREAK. This is an important one. We are conditioned to being able to do anything and everything while holding our cell phones. I would rather put my coffee in my purse than my cell phone, which has led to some very chaotic 8:00AM spills. Be honest with yourself: do you take your cell phone with you in the bathroom? Is it sitting like another family member at the dinner table? Do you constantly look up with a big smile at your child or other loved one, acting like you’ve been listening the whole time? Did you go for a whole drive without looking at your phone? What about a whole morning? Or a whole day? This goes for iPads, computers, and any other device that enables you to multitask. When you give your technology a little break, you are instantly more present.
WORK ON CREATIVE PROJECTS IN A SEPARATE SPACE FROM CHORE SPACE. I am not nearly as productive with my writing and work at the dining table than I am at my desk. If I work in the dining room, I am peripherally eyeing the dishes in the sink, the carpet that needs vacuuming, the blinds that need dusting, and an array of other chores. I can’t focus. Therefore, I need a separate space to keep my mind on one thing. If this means going to the library or going to a coffee shop, do it. Going offsite to work for one hour can be substantially more productive than trying to work at home for five hours. Never underestimate the value of environment.
GIVE IMPORTANT THINGS YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. Especially with blogging, I struggle with trying to use every second for brainstorming, writing, editing, graphic design, research, and networking, even if it means doing it while my son is playing or while he is sleeping. Lately, I have found myself doing it more often than what feels comfortable, so I stop myself and toss legos around with him or stare at his fluttering eyes while he sleeps. It is no surprise that multitasking means spreading your 100% in different directions. Make time to give your loved ones 100% of you.
DECIDE WHEN TO DELEGATE. Part of what makes me a multitasking machine (or monster) is my inability to delegate. I can be bossy and crazy and I want the laundry done when I want it done or I want dinner cooking in the middle of a creative thought that I don’t want to lose. Instead, I know that I could be relinquishing some of the responsibility to my husband, who would understand that I want to dedicate my time, energy, and diligence to one task and that I’m trying not to be superwoman. Therefore, I encourage you to ask for help. Resist any urges to control everything and let go of the idea that you are the only person in the house who can do certain things “right” (which is usually code for “I want that done RIGHT THIS SECOND, RIGHT WHEN I WANT IT, but I know you’re not going to do it right now, which is why I’m doing it myself”). Your family is more willing to help when their mother, wife, sister, and friend is feeling less overwhelmed.
CARRY AROUND A GLASS OF WATER. This might be a unique tip that you have never found on a Pinterest site. Every time you think about doing something else, take a gulp of water. This serves as a physical act to reset your brain and say “Hey! You’re trying to multitask again! Stop it!” In this way, you are also getting in your daily recommendation of hydration!
AVOID OVER-COMMITTING. Multitasking habits don’t always happen overnight. They stem from committing to too many things that all have coinciding deadlines. Work and motherhood are hard enough to balance, but when you commit to volunteer opportunities, extracurricular groups, online communities, second jobs, and other areas, your brain is constantly looking for ways to get everything done in a timely manner so that no one is disappointed and every commitment is served. This might be okay when you’re in high school, trying to get into college or if you’re retired and looking for new adventures now that your kids are grown up. But it is important to never feel like you aren’t doing enough. Maintaining a career and a pet might be enough. Nurturing your family and going to school takes up plenty of time. Socializing with friends and running your own business are certainly as productive as you need to be. You can always be doing more of what you love, but never feel like you need to do it all at the same time in your life. I learned this the hard way by working full time, working on two master’s degrees, and growing a baby inside me.
TAKE BREAKS TO AVOID BURNOUT. We often multitask to catch up on things. However, it is important to take breaks and give yourself time to rest and recharge. When you are overwhelmed and feel burnt out, your brain has a harder time operating at its optimally focused level and you have a restless energy that makes you feel like you need to do everything all the time. I’m sure we all know people who feel weird when they aren’t doing something and don’t quite know how to “chill.” Learn how to take a break so that you can slow down a little.
HANG UP YOUR CAPE. As I mentioned with delegating, give yourself permission to be ordinary, flawed, and incapable of saving the world in one day. Your family will be much happier when they see you slowing down, or actually get to see you instead of the back of your screen.
BONUS: MAKE TIME FOR HOME MANICURES AND PEDICURES. I can’t do ANYTHING when my nails are wet, and I know I’m not alone. All I can do is sit in bed or on the couch, relaxing and waiting. Treat yourself more often and make time for a little pampering. This also works with bubble baths!
Do you find yourself struggling with multitasking? How does it affect your home, work, or other area of your life? What other suggestions would you make to limit multitasking? Leave comments for me! I love learning from my readers!