Way back when I worked in the corporate world, I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask. I was managing a whole lot at once, and crossing things off my to do list as quickly as I could, while also answering phone calls, and sending faxes…wait, did I just admit that?…and drafting emails, and sipping my coffee! Someone once told me that no one could multitask! I was floored! We had a brief debate about it, but in the end, I was left with a huge eureka moment!
In reality, I wasn’t multitasking…I was task shifting!
AND, worse, every time I was actually trying to multitask I was mixing things up, or missing details here and there.
Have you ever noticed how moms are often distracted, or have that frazzled look? It’s because moms are forced to multitask. They need to prep a bottle while also letting the dog out and answering the phone and having a spotless house and dressed to the 9s! Or they must change a poopy diaper, while talking on the phone to HR about their EI; which may accidentally end up with you talking about poop on the phone, while wiping a bum with a statement of earnings…it’s just no good! Or, in the middle of cooking dinner, a kid may yell for whatever reason or at a sibling! It distracts you, and now you have to leave dinner for a brief second while running to check on kids, then tending the dinner again, hoping it hasn’t burned! Not a very efficient way to check on the kids OR make dinner! Mom’s often feel like they are failing at everything because they are forced to multitask!
Everything has to happen at once!
I don’t care how good you are at everything; you can’t possibly maintain that sort of chaos. It’s why moms covet their quiet moments BY THEMSELVES, when ALL they have to do is focus on what they want…if they ever get that chance! They need just one moment of peace once in a while, where they don’t have to balance all of the balls in the air by themselves!
I used to think I could be so productive by multitasking. You know, being able to manage many things at once. But really, when you think about true productivity, when you break it down to its core, it’s really more successful when you are task shifting, as opposed to actually multitasking.
Going back to the busy mom cooking dinner. It’s not about really cooking dinner while also checking on the kids. It’s more of a shift from making dinner, to checking on the kids, then back to making dinner. They are two different tasks that cannot be completed, successfully, simultaneously.
Even looking at making dinner all by itself. It’s still not really multitasking. Sure, you are doing multiple tasks, but not quite at the exact same time. Cook the pasta, and brown the meat, and sauté the veggies. It may seem like all of it is happening at the same time and it kind of is, but you are actually switching tasks. You are stirring the pasta, then stirring the meat to brown it, then stirring the veggies so they don’t burn. They are each independent tasks. It’s why cooking is a bit of an art. It’s a practiced skill, to know when to shift from task to task and do it so quickly that it seems like you are doing it all at once.
How about watching tv while trying to do anything else. What are you really focusing on? More often than not, you will either be tuning out the tv, or focusing solely on the tv and not really doing whatever else you are “doing” at the same time. One task will win out over the other.
When we try to do too much, we often get overwhelmed. It stems from having too much to focus on! We are actually very simple as people. We can easily focus, but mostly on only one thing or task at a time. It’s what makes prioritizing so important. By tapping into our focus, or concentration on one given task, we can get tasks done VERY quickly! Dare I even say in record speed. Think about your own entryway. A friend messages you and asks if they can pop by in a few minutes. Think about how fast you can tidy a single area of the house! Or even the whole main floor!!!
The magic of your productivity really comes from choosing a task and focusing on it for a period of time, or until it’s done. Once your timer goes off, or you finish the task, then you shift to another task. You may have multiple tasks going on at once, but your focus is on whichever ONE task you choose. It’s also what gives task lists their power. This quick shifting from one task to another can go unnoticed, and it’s easy to praise yourself on multitasking to the max. But when you dig deeper it comes down to doing one task at a time. You don’t have to do the one task from start to finish to be more productive. You can vacuum this room, then tidy that room, then dust another room and back to vacuuming. But, imagine trying to dust and vacuum at the SAME time! It’s just not as effective.
When you can accept that you are actually still (and maybe more) productive by doing only one thing at a time, it can be easier to cut yourself some slack. There’s no need to do two or more things at once. If you are having a hard time keeping up, it’s ok to let one of those balls drop and pick it up later. Don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to manage it all at the same time.
Just focus on one thing at a time!