Multi-tasking…is it really even possible to multi-task? I mean the concept sounds good, right? We do multiple tasks at one time, therefore getting more things done. But what does multi-tasking really look like? I know for me, it often looks like this:
Physically: On phone, walking around, starting laundry, packing lunches, answering the door, checking on the kids, feeding the dog, reading an urgent text from husband that the internet install guy is coming, oh and will you renew the auto insurance “when you have time?”
Mentally: Oh man, does my daughter have gymnastics today? Is it my turn to drive? Did I follow up with my current customers? Who is on the calendar to chat with and coach today? Did the email to teacher get set to get conference scheduled? Laundry. Dog – did the dog get fed? Are my kids alive? What are we going to eat for dinner? Need to take dog for a walk. Have I had any water today? When can I exercise? Did the kids complete their homework? Is child A still feeling sad? Did child B get play dates and fill her bucket this week? Did I enroll child A in activity B? What are my goals this week? When can I get to the grocery store? Did I get a gift for the party? The list goes on and on. Because I’m not focused on each individual thing, I’m not truly focusing on any of them, I’m not present.
Do you ever feel trapped in a tug of war between all the thoughts in your head and what you are physically able to accomplish? Experts say we actually get LESS done when we try to multi-task. Seriously? Yes.
So, what can we do to accomplish everything we need to without resorting to multi-tasking? Here are some tips that have helped me:
- Set timers – 15 minutes in the morning for a devotional or to focus our heads and hearts on what matters. Then give yourself 10 minutes for social media, an hour for intentional work, etc. Setting a timer can help you to train your brain to focus on the task at hand and not waste time switching tasks.
- Make a list – If you are anything like me, having a list helps me feel accomplished, as I check off the mundane and achieve major success. By prioritizing the items on my list and working my way from top to bottom during the day I can make sure I complete all of the tasks I need to in any given day.
- Make your bed – yes, this is a tip from the Admiral William H McRaven, he has his soldiers make their beds because every day, no matter what happens, at least one thing has been accomplished.
- Get a good calendar/scheduling system- I personally have to tweak this regularly. I have a love-hate relationship with technology because now that I use the iPhone and Google for my calendar it tends to put me back into the mode of multi-tasking and we know that multi-tasking is really just making us accomplish…well, less.
- Schedule tasks using the Premack Principle – this principle states that preferred behaviors or behaviors with a higher level of intrinsic reinforcement, can be used as rewards or reinforcements for less preferred behaviors. This means you should do the things you dislike the most first and then you’ll be more efficient and therefore get to the more enjoyable tasks. There is a book called “Eat the Frog” which focuses on a similar concept. Mark Twain said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Do the hard things first and get them over with, then it’s all downhill from there!
What do you think? Can we really multi-task? How do you calm the clutter in your head so that you can make it happen with the tasks that are most important? How do you manage life and all that is thrown in your direction and stay positive and focused on all the good in life?