To Multi-Task or Not to Multi-Task: Tips for When To and When Not To

Which is better:  doing two things at once or focusing on a single task?  Any mom knows that you have to do BOTH to run your household and manage your family.
Women can have a hard time shutting off distractions and other responsibilities when it’s time to focus somewhere else.  Husbands can have a hard time understanding this because their brains are generally wired to have more of a single-minded focus.    
When my husband learned this concept and realized that my mind is often like a computer desktop with open windows, he’ll pitch in to help with something and tell me he’s “helping me shut some windows on my desktop.”
Since busy women get so good at multi-tasking, it’s sometimes hard to figure out when focused effort would serve us better.
Here are some tips for when to do which:
DO multi-task when you:
·      Fold laundry.  Great time to drill kids on memory work or listen to a story.  Even better, if the kids are folding laundry, you read aloud.
·      Wash dishes.  Listen to uplifting music or a training audio.  Or carry on a conversation with an individual child.
·      Dry your hair.  I discovered that I could check email on my phone while blow-drying my hair.
·      Brush your teeth.  Brush with one hand, use the other hand to put away grooming supplies or wipe the counter.
·      Cook dinner.  Clean the kitchen as you cook—run a sinkful of hot soapy water and put pans in to soak.  Wipe up, put away as you go.
·      Talk on the phone.  Clean out a drawer, pick up stray items and put them away, dust a tabletop. 
DON’T multi-task when you:
·      Teach your children.  When you constantly check Facebook or email while they are reading to you or asking about a math problem, it can get discouraging for them as they feel put off and unimportant.
·      Have private time with your husband.  Obviously this would be mental multi-tasking but don’t go there. 
·      Talk on the phone.  Wait a minute, I thought I could multi-task on this one?  Only if it’s casual conversation.  Not an important call, or one you’re paying for.
·      Drive.  It’s possible that you can listen to music or an audio, depending on your driving ability and level of multi-tasking skill.  But don’t send text messages on your phone.
·      Should be listening to a person, face-to-face.  Look them in the eye, honor them with your attention.  Even six-year-olds who are telling you about their ladybug collection.
·      Need to focus on the task at hand.  There are many times when you can get more done in less time if you take time to focus on one task at a time.  Writing, banking, planning and more will benefit from single-minded attention rather than stops and starts while doing other things.
It’s a fact of life that women multi-task out of necessity.  For many, single-tasking is more of a challenge. 
Choose a task that gives you a feeling of being distracted and stressed.  See if there is some part of the job that you can do in a focused way. 
Multi-task vs. single-task:  it depends on the situation.  Think through how each way affects you and the results, then adjust if you need to.  Sometimes just realizing how something affects you is a breakthrough to doing it differently.  See if doing it in a new way will help you close some windows on your desktop. 


One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing your list.  Loved the desktop windows analogy.  I’m definitely sharing that one with my hubby.  My challenge is shutting down the mental multi-tasking.  Seems like there is always 50 things (usually that I should be doing) flying through my head.  Focusing on a child to answer a math question (which is now a geometry questions) or stopping to write a clear email is challenging.  I’ve learned to close my office door and focus on the task at hand.  The quiet helps quiet the noise in my mind 🙂  Looking forward to more great insight here.

    Theresa 😎

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