How and Why I Multitask

I know all the findings from those all mighty researchers we are always reading about tell us that multitasking is not productive and we actually accomplish less, rather than more, when we attempt to do more than one task at a time. But I don’t think I know a single mother that will tell you she never has to multitask.

Part of the mom job description is having the skills to handle more than one thing at a time. Raising kids and doing, well, anything else fills more time than there are hours in the day. Multitasking is a necessity. So while it may not be the most productive or efficient way to get things done, sometimes done is good enough and perfect is not needed.

Here are some of the ways I multitask on a regular basis:

  • I use my smartphone to go through emails or catch up on social media while waiting in line or sitting in a waiting room. I have made this more efficient by using filters for my email so I can quickly scan a group of similar emails when I have a spare minute. Some emails I can quickly delete without even opening. For example, I get emails regularly from stores such as Kohls and Target. If I know I’m not going there within the week, I can simply click and delete without opening. Since this kind of sorting and purging of my email inbox is fairly low concentration, it is easy to do while I’m engaged in something else.
  • I only have a couple TV shows I like to watch each week, but I almost never just sit and watch them. I use that time to fold laundry, clip coupons, or go through a stack of mail or papers from the week. Again, these are fairly low concentration tasks, so my mind can still focus on the show while I get something else done at the same time.
  • In the fall when The Coach is at football and this spring with him coaching softball, it is just me and the boys at dinner time most nights. Since they have been at daycare or school all day, they understandably want some of my attention when we get home. However, they also need to eat. So while I start dinner, I do a number of other things. While the boys do their afternoon routine and chores I get dinner going and clean anything in the kitchen that needs it. After that, I try to have Roo read his homework books to me in the kitchen while I’m working on dinner. Monkey sometimes listens or gets a book of his own out and “reads” it to us.
  • On the weekends at lunch or days when the boys are taking awhile to finish their dinners, I will grab a book and read to them while they eat. Also, I will often try to read at my desk at work while I eat my lunch. I’m not much of a “take a lunch break” kind of girl, so I often give into the temptation to just work and eat, but I try on stressful or busy days to take a few minutes and read while I eat.
  • Finally, I use my drive to and from work to make quick calls to friends and catch up. I know some people will lecture me about distracted driving, but my opinion is I can drive safely and chat at the same time. And it is much easier to chat with a friend in the quiet of my car by myself than it is to try and do so when my kids are running around and playing and demanding attention.

Do I try to solve the world’s problems while researching a cure for cancer? Of course not. But I do try to squeeze in some of those low mental energy tasks while doing another low to mid-level mental energy task. And I try to choose the things that can be done “well enough” for my multitasking efforts. Since tasks like folding the laundry and tidying up the kitchen don’t have to be done perfectly, they work well for doing while I am accomplishing something else at the same time.

How do you multitask?

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