”Ruff ruff ruff ruff.”
Ah they got me again. Of course I’ve heard this one before, but it had been a while and I walked right into it. It was interesting timing because earlier in the week I had been reading a few different articles about everyday interruptions and multi-tasking. Multi-tasking has become the new, and expected, normal and it goes to a whole different level if you are a mom. I have been a proud multi-tasker for many years. Make the lunches, empty the dishwasher, fire off spelling words, put cereal in a bowl and find whatever is “missing” all at once – that’s not multi-tasking, that’s Wednesday morning at my house. But recent studies show that multi-tasking may not be something to brag about after all.
We have become an “always on” society. We expect to be able to find anything at anytime from anywhere and it is evident in all areas of our lives. At work, even though I am in a meeting, it is perfectly acceptable for someone to “ask a quick question” via instant messenger. I have been known to finish typing an email on one subject and carry on a conversation regarding another subject at the same time. In fact, if I didn’t multi-task at work, I would probably add 2-3 hours of work to my day just to get everything done. At home it’s very, very rare that you can do any one thing without being interrupted and/or having to do something else at the same time. I don’t have to list any examples, I’m sure that you have plenty you can think of from your own lives.
The problem is that no matter how good I might think I am at multi-tasking, science says otherwise. Studies have shown that multi-tasking can actually increase the amount of time it takes to complete a task, sometimes as much as 25% more. In other words all the time that I think I am saving by doing multiple things at once, I may actually be extending the amount of time it takes to work on them. That’s a valid point. No one multi-tasks with the intention of taking longer to complete something. Ever since I read that I’ve been trying to re-evaluate the tasks that I do at the same time and try to stop myself in situations where I could possibly be adding more time. It’s not easy, but even if I can “single task” one time during the day, I count that as a win.
There’s another element of multi-tasking that we haven’t really touched on. When you are doing multiple things at once, you are dividing your attention among those things as well. When we are talking about tasks (laundry, dishes, making dinner, cleaning) dividing your attention is difficult, but possible. When we add people into the mix of multi-tasking, things change exponentially. If I am making dinner and helping with homework, am I really helping my child in the best possible way? Or when you are with a friend, you think nothing of checking your phone (even if it is just a quick glance). We are so used to multi-tasking, that when we try to single task it is uncomfortable. We are so used to multi-tasking, that we no longer see it as an interruption. Our relationships with each other deserve our full, undivided attention and we can’t do that if we are constantly distracted by interrupting dogs.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.