It’s tempting as a busy mom to multi-task and do many things at once, but you end up distracted and not getting anything finished! Here is how to het more done without multitasking:
I used to be a major multitasker.
In fact, I used to pride myself on being able to do many things at once… thereby being efficient. I’m sure many Type A mothers use multitasking as a way to somehow get through the big to do list or the mess of a house by the end of each day.
I did’t realize I was dead wrong…
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Recently, I read a post by the author of Who Switched Off My Brain?, which said our brains aren’t meant to multitask, but rather to do one thing at a time.
I was initially shocked, then a bit offended. Then, I thought about it and realized that, generally speaking, my mental multitasking actually brings me stress and anxiety. Sure, I can physically multitask, but that doesn’t require my brain cells working too hard.
Picking up a few toys while holding a baby and instructing one toddler to get off the table comes naturally. Which is good. This isn’t the problem.
Here it is: the mental multitasking we do just continually reminds us of everything that needs to be done, and is no help to our sanity.
Physical Vs. Mental Multitasking
I started differentiating between mental and physical multitasking, and started focusing on just doing one thing at a time mentally.
I think the ability to do many things quickly and wisely is a skill and a blessing. I’m not knocking multitasking, people.
However, mental multitasking was only causing me grief.
Here are the differences:
- Physical multitasking may be walking through the house picking up things and depositing them in other places as you are caring a baby. You may also be closing doors, windows, blinds and then grabbing a towel to give everyone at bath time. You are doing a few things at once but it is not mentally taxing.
- Mental multitasking is doing one thing (hanging the laundry) while remembering that you were supposed to pull out dinner. You run to the freezer, but when you’re in the freezer realize that you forgot to start your grocery list. Before you know it, you’re writing your list while trying to hang laundry at the same time. All the while, thinking of the other 5 million things that need to be done before noon. Talk about stressed out!
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Stop Thinking about “The List”
I started focusing on one area or concept instead of dividing my focus (mental multitasking.)
Let me give an example: After dinner time is pretty stressful, particularly for us since my husband works in the evenings. I used to do dishes, look around and plan my attack on the toys in the living room while dreading the next 45 minutes that would include giving two toddlers baths while making sure the baby was okay.
I stopped doing all that thinking and started focusing.
Instead, now I focus on the kitchen while I’m in the kitchen. I do the dishes and I even dry and put them away. That may seem normal to you, but I used to just leave dishes in the dry rack until it was full then empty it. Only to fill it again.
Previously, drying the dishes would have been a joke. After I let go of thinking about my list I found I had time to properly clean the counters, wipe the cabinets, sweep and even mop.
And I’m way less stressed because I just focused on that one thing.
Getting More Done Without Multitasking Cuts Back on Weariness
I know myself pretty well, and it is and always has been the mental stuff that gets me down.
I tend to be anxious, worried and overly concerned with the future while always feeling guilty about something. What do I feel guilty about? I don’t know.
Having a big to do list and trying to work through it all times of the day like a maniac only meant more weariness.
Sure, maybe I got through the list… at the expense of my sanity.
Some days I didn’t get through it, but I was still harried all day and weary at night.
After a few weeks now of purposely avoiding the mental multitask I can honestly say I am less weary.
I’m getting much more done! How?
- My mental multitasking was actually lowering my capacity to get things done properly.
- The stress was lowering my progress and many times I had to stop and collapse comatose on the couch.
- Now, I am actually able to do more because I operate in a more peaceful state which allows me to go from one thing to the other naturally.
- My capacity has increased and I’m able to focus on completing a task properly.
You’ll Accomplish More in a Peaceful Environment
A friend came over for a visit last week and said the home atmosphere felt noticeably more peaceful. I was getting more done without multitasking.
This was very happy to hear that because, honestly, I’d noticed the same thing myself. I think it used to be less peaceful because…
I was fidgety.
Always thinking about what needed to be done. Always waiting for a “spare moment” to cross a few things off my never ending-always growing-eat me alive to do list.
The home atmosphere is noticeably more peaceful and that is simply a positive side effect of loosing the mental multitasking.
It’s a work in progress and sometimes everyone is screaming and having Contagious Meltdowns. But, hey that’s life.
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I think half of parenting – heck, half of life – is about learning how we best function. And the truth is, mental multitasking will wear us down. Getting more down without multitasking is as simple as making the moment you’re in a priority and taking it one step at a time.
You may do it differently than me and I may do it differently than you, but there is great joy and peace in figuring out systems that help us to accomplish x with peace and harmony.