There is no doubt, NO one can multitask like a mom.
Cook dinner and play go fish? Of course! Make a doctors appointment while changing a poopy diaper? Done! Reorder diapers from the park? Yup! Read Goodnight Moon while using the bathroom? Sure, bring it on!
But when it comes to mainstream business advice, the gurus say “don’t multitask.” They tell us to focus on one task, turn off distractions and laser in on one thing until it’s done.
In fact, if you google “multitasking,” the first three articles are titled;
All of these articles talk about the research that shows that the human brain can’t actually do more than one thing at a time. Instead we switch back and forth between tasks rapidly. We can get very good at this, but the more tasks we add and the more complex the tasks become, the longer it takes our brain to switch between tasks. And this is what experts say actually slow down our productivity.
I have to admit, when I read this, I was a little disheartened. I think for moms, especially moms that are balancing work and family at the same time, multitasking is not an option, but a necessity. So, learning that we can’t multitask really burst my mommy-balance bubble.
I actually decided to table this post from last week and examine how my multitasking style works and doesn’t work through out my day.
What I realized about my own life is the things that are most important to me (like my kids) and the things that are most important to do well (like my work), are the things that I should NOT multi-task. Just like the authors in the above articles, I found I could actually get my work done faster when I only focused on one thing at a time, focused on it, finished it and then moved on to the next. This required some “to do list management” and a shift in the way I plan my time (which will be the theme of next week’s post!)
My conclusion is, if we don’t really multitask and what we do is switch rapidly between task, than “multitasking” should be about choosing WHICH tasks you can switch between most efficiently and realizing when you should not make your brain do the acrobatics and just focus in on one thing.
If I was going to find time to focus completely on some of my tasks, I had to figure out a way to double up and streamline the other more mundane tasks.
- I can put away laundry while watching the kids jump on the bed.
- I can listen to an audio business program while picking up the house after the kids are asleep.
- I can print preschool forms to fill out later, while I am checking in on my business’ social media presence.
- I can catch up with my best friend on the phone, while I take my daughter for a walk (that is a 3-way task!)
With some of those more menial tasks off my plate, my brain is clearer, I can focus more completely and get my more important projects done faster.
And this applies to focus time with my kids too. I may multi task while they are otherwise engaged, but I try to have focused time with each of them each day, where I turn off my phone and computer and completely engage in what they want to do.
I think the success of multitasking (like many other things with parenting and entrepreneurship) is all in the planning.
- Take a minute right now and review your current to do list. Put a star next to the 3 most important tasks that you will NOT multi task. (These might also be your big goals for the day or week)
- Write next to those task how much time you think the task will take you if you focus completely on it. This will help you know how much time you need to set aside.
- Brainstorm 4 to 6 of your mundane tasks that you can pair up with each other. Actually write the next to each other so you remember to do them together.
- Schedule physical time on your calendar for your focus time and your multitask time
- Leave a comment below on your own tips or experiences with multitasking and how you make the most of your time!
…and can I please add using the restroom to the list of things I don’t want to multitask!