The Efficient Multitasker Fallacy

Multitasking.

We’re moms. Multitasking is as natural as running our business with a child on our hip while getting our kids to do chores. We multitask all day, every day. As we navigate this thing called motherhood, we fall into the daily traps of trying to do it all, at the same time.

A child comes home from school and we need to cook dinner. As we start dinner, we realize the floor needs to be mopped. When we check our child’s homework, we realize there are toys on the floor. Instead of leaving them alone, we jump to it. It’s all gotta get done somehow.

Yet an hour later, dinner is a little overdone, the kids are crying and you certainly wouldn’t pay yourself for your quick mop job.

Somehow we have held tight to the idea that we are all an efficient multitasker, but is that accurate?

What if you approached it differently? We are so well versed in multitask mode, we forget there is another way to do it.

  1. You’re not multitasking, you’re task switching.
    You are stopping one task to start another, often losing some progress during the switch and up to 40% of your productivity.
  1. Your brain is juggling non-stop.  
    Instead of being able to focus on the task at hand, you’re always thinking about the other tasks that need to done. This constant cycle is stressful and non-productive. You’re constantly keeping balls in the air, never allowing one to drop. Of course, a terrible side effect of this is overeating. Do you want to get fat?
  1. You’re not good at it and it stresses everyone else out too.  
    By trying to keep all of these balls in the air, you often expect others to do the same or expect them to know what’s going on as you switch tasks. This adds to chaos in your life and nobody’s happy about.
  1. You’re never “in the moment”.
    Even something as simple as taking a picture can have you miss important moments as you pull out your phone or camera, get the camera to open and find the right settings. Now consider if you’re doing something that requires some real brain work.

Additional points in Health.com.

Schedule Your Priorities

How to do it differently?

  • Do one thing at a time.
  • Make a list of to-dos so you can remember to go back.
    My favorite list app is Wunderlist.
  • When you start to feel stressed, assess your situation and see if something could be done later.
  • Don’t double book.
    Don’t expect that you can do X while you do Y, unless they are definitely doable.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Don’t be afraid to let some things go.
  • Ask for help.
    You don’t have to do it all. No, the other person won’t do it the way you do it, but it’s ok. It will get done.

What other tips can you provide those who try to multitask all the time?

This post originally appeared on Lose the Cape.

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April Grant

April Grant is a philanthropist and business owner. She juggles wifing and mothering with her business building, so that her three littles have a chance to see her grow a business from scratch. When she's doing any of the above, she's watching the Real Housewives and Scandal.
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37 thoughts on “The Efficient Multitasker Fallacy

  1. Yes, yes, YES to all of this!!! I’ve officially come to terms with the fact that I am not a great multi-tasker and I’m just waiting for the rest of my family to get the memo. I’ve said many times in the past that I never feel like I’m “in the moment” anymore and that’s one of my biggest challenges to overcome this year. Great post!

  2. I can absolutely multitask like a boss. I do the switching thing sometimes, too, but I can do it all 🙂

  3. Interesting take on this. I am one of those freaks that actually performs better when I have 700 things going on all at the same time. I know not everyone works this way though. Thinking of it as switching can be just the mindset that some people need to stay productive.

    • I thought I did too, until I stopped. I finished my to do list a lot faster when I stayed on task until I finished than when I switched back and forth. The time it took to restart and figure out exactly where I was. Good for you!

  4. I am a master at multitasking in the kitchen. I even surprise myself sometimes that I can make so many courses and serve each on time as planned. Prep work and a schedule – that’s the key

  5. I try to schedule my priorities, so i manage to do a lot of things during a day. Prioritizing my task lists allowed me to literally double my productivity

  6. Great advice! I tend to multi-task, but like you said, it is really just task switching. However if I don’t start helping with homework at the same time we do dinner, we’ll eat dinner too late. I think I probably need to start asking my husband to help with either dinner prep or homework…instead I tend to do it all.

  7. Lists and schedules are a mom’s best friend. This is something I learned when I was working until I needed to be a stay at home mom. It’s really more efficient when you’re following a schedule.

  8. I am completely agreeing with you! Especially the multi-tasking thingy. I read an article, a psychological facts actually, that we cannot do and we’re not multi-tasking, we create another task to do. Great post! Love to read it.

  9. I heard a mom never stop multi-tasking…I dont have kids yet. I multi-task a lot without kids and imagine when I do. I will tell you my solution…GET DAD MORE INVOLVED!

  10. Hahaha for a while i try to be multitask, but at the end of the day i didnt finish anything or forgot somethings. bad idea for me or just doing it wrong 🙁

  11. I like the tip not to be afraid to let some things go. It feels good when you finally do.

  12. I do multi-tasking sometimes, if I cook and also do the dishes. Usually I can’t even finish one task 🙂 Thank you for the tips, they’re very helpful.

  13. Wow! How wonderfully you’ve written it down. Well, I guess, multi-tasking may be needed at some point. Always, one thing at a time may not go.

  14. I agree about not multi-tasking, but switching tasks 🙂
    Definitely a great list.
    I am trying to delegate…it takes getting used to

  15. This is so true! I can’t get anything done when I try to “multitask” I just end up doing a whole lot of nothing. I work best when I stick to one task, finish it and move onto the next!

  16. That is a really interesting way of looking at it! I have a bad habit or starting to put the dishes away and then moving on to put the dirty laundry in the dryer. Then I start to make dinner and realize one (if not most) of the kids need help with their homework. LOL

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