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October 15, 2015

The Right Way to Multitask

Like you, I’m busy. In this season of my life in particular, I’m crazy busy. There are never enough hours in the day or days in the week to do everything I need and want to do. One of the...

Like you, I’m busy. In this season of my life in particular, I’m crazy busy. There are never enough hours in the day or days in the week to do everything I need and want to do.

One of the ways that many people try to manage their lack of time is to multitask.

Women in particular are proud of their natural and masterful multitasking skills. Someone once gave me the analogy that men’s brains are like a waffle with each separate compartment requiring individual focus, whereas women’s brains are more like spaghetti with many different things running together in a tangled mess. I don’t know how scientific my friend’s waffle and spaghetti example is, but it makes sense.

Women in particular are good at doing many things at once, which can be a great solution to making the most of your time. You can multiply your time by doing several things simultaneously.

However, there is a right way to multitask and a wrong way to multitask. There’s one way that’s beneficial and helpful and another way that is harmful.

For example, recently, I’ve started listening to podcasts on my phone while I put on makeup in the morning. I used to listen to music, but now I’m able to combine two things at once and feed my mind while also getting ready. This is a simple and effective way to multitask.

Or the other day, my son was being particularly clingy and wouldn’t let me put him down, but I had to get the kitchen cleaned up before the week. I was running out of options as he insisted I hold him. I decided to put him in my baby carrier facing forward while I cleaned. He was fascinated watching me sweep and fold towels. I talked to him about everything I was doing, and I got the house cleaned. Since my son is the size of a small NFL player and is in 24-month clothes at 8 months old, I also got a workout as a bonus!

Those are two examples of effective ways to multitask.

When you combine something that needs your attention (like learning from a podcast or talking to my son) with something that is automatic and doesn’t require attention (like putting on makeup or folding towels), you can multitask effectively.

But there’s also a wrong way to multitask.

When we try to combine two things that require attention, one if not both will slip.

Ever tried to have a conversation with someone while they’re texting?

Yeah. They aren’t listening.

When you try to divide your attention in too many important places at once, something always suffers.

Think about talking to a customer while balancing your bank account. You might accidentally agree to the wrong order, or your bank account might end up completely out of whack.

Or imagine trying to help your child with their homework while answering emails on your computer. Your child knows you aren’t really paying attention, and the emails you’re sending may not even make sense.

Our effort to multitask in those situations does more harm than good.

It’s not worth it.

So if you want to multitask and multiply your time, go for it. You can make the most of your days and add value to your time, as you can fit more in the same amount of hours in a day. Just remember, when it comes to doing multiple tasks at once, make sure that only one of those actually require your attention. Then, even if you’re crazy busy, you’re able to focus on what matters the most in the moment and truly multitask the right way.

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