We have heard the word multitasking for years. Especially as life became busier and busier, women (and men!) are working to balance out their lives with their career and families. There are so many hours in the day so the only way to possibly get things done is to do more than one thing as time, right? Some say Yes, some say No.
Let me present you with the arguments for both sides and see what you think.
Leo Babauta from Zen Habits, one of Time Magazine’s Top 25 blogs says this:
How NOT to Multi-task — a guide to working as simply as possible for your mental health.
First, a few quick reasons not to multi-task:
- Multi-tasking is less efficient, due to the need to switch gears for each new task, and the switch back again.
- Multi-tasking is more complicated, and thus more prone to stress and errors.
- Multi-tasking can be crazy, and in this already chaotic world, we need to reign in the terror and find a little oasis of sanity and calm.
Leo’s thought is that we will get less done, because our focus is divided. His recommendation is to be focused and intentional about what you are working on.
Multitasking- The only way to survive our world
From a poll on workingmums: One woman who took part in the poll commented: “You have to be able to multi-task when being a mum as you have the house chores or other siblings or even work to juggle, so you have to be able to feed your child while getting the washing out.”
Another mother, Samantha Dolke, added: “Young mothers today have to adapt to the always-on-the-move, juggle everything at once mode. If you don’t, you’ll end up a nervous wreck. Work, study, eat, sleep, clean, wash and hang clothes, get the kids ready, change bums, read, sing, entertain and work work work! Us mums – and dads (sorry boys!) – are expert multitaskers.”
Talking on the phone to a client while preparing a spreadsheet, intervening in an argument between young children while cooking dinner, looking for that precious lost blanket while cleaning house — all are everyday examples of multitasking.
Of course, doing simultaneous jobs is not a new concept for moms and dads. What parent can get along without it?
Time Magazine says:
“Mothers have done it since the hunter-gatherer era-picking berries while suckling an infant, stirring the pot with one eye on the toddler.” And with more and more men being involved in parenting or being the stay-at-home dad, this is not limited to women.
There is a drawback however. We, especially women, have a tendency to try to do it all at once, and feel it’s our responsibility to get everything done TODAY. We feel guilty if we even think about sitting down with a book or relaxing in a hot bath when we know there is a pile of school papers on the table. We feel stressed and agitated when we don’t have time for our children because we are so busy.
So is there an answer? A solution to getting more things done, but being less stressed and more balanced?
Chunking activities and responsibilities
Chunking activities avoids the pitfalls of typical multitasking because it uses two different parts of the brain at the same time. Instead of everything competing for your attention, you combine a mental task with a physical task. This gives you the ability to keep your focus where it is most needed. You may find that you are actually doing this in your life, but read on to get more tips!
4 steps to implement chunking into your life
- Make a list of your mindless activities- things such as showering, commuting, cutting the grass, working out, waiting (in waiting rooms, for carpool, etc). We all have plenty of them!
- Based on your Values list and Priorities list, make a list of positive things you want to incorporate into your life- spend quality time with spouse, read more, spend time in prayer or meditation, enjoy nature, connect friends you don’t speak to often
- Look at your 2 lists. Are they physical or mental activities?
- Connect the activities that would fit well together. Combine physical activities with things that are mental.
Here are some examples-
- wash your car (physical) with your spouse and talk to him (mental)
- walk on the treadmill (physical) and listen to a book on your iPod (mental)
- drive to work (physical) and call friends you don’t get to talk to much (mental) – be sure to use hands-free!
- cook dinner (physical) while chatting with your kids about their day (mental)
Note-Don’t forget we are talking about balance here. While we are talking about productivity and getting more things done, it is okay to just enjoy the journey. We will be talking more about that over the next few weeks!