I hope y’all are ready, because today I am busting the multi-tasking myth!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know that I am hard on kitchen towels. I mean really hard. Like…”I regularly set them on fire” hard. And I’ve recently gotten to the root of the problem. The main reason I set kitchen towels on fire? Because I try (unsuccessfully) to multi-task!
I’m not sure if anyone else struggles with this problem, but when I try to multi-task while I’m cooking, I end up setting things on fire. Potholders, kitchen towels, wet dishcloths – all those things that normal people set on fire. Why? Because I’m trying to multi-task.
To put it simply, I’m not paying enough attention to each task.
A few months ago, I would have told you I was an awesome multi-tacker! Give me 15 tasks to do, and I will do them all at the same time. Because I am an amazing multi-tacker – that’s what I do, and I’m awesome at it. But I’ve recently learned about a little thing I’m calling the multi-tasking myth.
There’s no such thing as multi-tasking. It’s a myth.
Whatever you are doing, you are giving your time to it right now. Sometimes, I will listen to a book or podcast while I work – I don’t consider that multi-tasking. But if I’m trying to cook dinner, while helping someone with school, while talking to my husband, while working on the computer, while listening to a podcast… to think that I am doing all (or any!) of those tasks very effectively, is a myth.
You may think that you’re doing it all, but you’re giving part of yourself to dinner, school, your husband, your computer – and you’re not focusing fully on any one thing. And if you’re anything like me, that’s why you’re burning your kitchen towels! I have been working really hard on this by trying to take a step back. But it is not easy for me.
Take this morning for example, I was trying to do it all, until I took a step back and realized what I was doing. I was trying to divide my attention by 15 things and expecting to get good results. I was mad at my friends, my husband, my children and myself. But I wasn’t really giving any of the tasks I was working on my attention. I was expecting 100% results while only giving 15% effort.
I can’t expect to give everyone what they need or every task my full attention if I am doing five things at once.
I have found that when I focus, I actually finish tasks quicker, and I feel better when they are finished. If I am cooking dinner and I give it 100%, I don’t burn kitchen towels and set off the smoke alarm. If I’m doing something, I am focusing on that one thing. Which means I am not trying to read a book while making a quilt and painting my toenails! I’m just taking on one task at a time. I know that when I do focus on one thing, I feel better about it when it is finished!
Why don’t we just start giving what we are doing 100% of our attention at that time?
Taking this idea into your marriage relationship is especially helpful. I used to try to do three things at once when Barry was talking to me. And then a few hours later I’d say, “you never told me __INSERT IMPORTANT ITEM HERE__” But guess what, he really did tell me. I was trying to do too much at once, and I wasn’t listening! I don’t ever want Barry to feel like he doesn’t get 100% of my attention when he wants to talk to me. And, when I am talking, I want him to listen with all his attention.
You may be thinking, “Stacy, is this even possible with small children?”
Yes! It’s hard, and it takes practice. I’ve had to change the dialogue with my children. When I’m in the middle of a task, I’ll say something like, “Hang on just a moment, Mommy is talking to customer service. I will help you when I am finished.” I used to get angry and just yell, ” Go away. Leave me alone. I’m working on something!” But children don’t respond well to that. They respond much better when I tell them I will help, but first need to finish the task I am working on.
This teaches our kids patience.
Patience is not something that our culture likes to put much value in. We want everything Amazon Prime style – right now! And anytime we have to actually wait for something, we get so bothered. But patience is definitely a trait our kids will benefit from developing.
Don’t buy in to the multi-tasking myth!
Have I mastered this? No. I’m a work in progress. But let me just encourage you to try letting go of the multi-tasking myth and focus on one thing at a time. It might just make a world of difference!