5 Tips for Enlightened Multitasking

Multitasking mom in kitchen.

Multitasking – you hear about it everywhere, and it’s no wonder. With the busy lives we lead, multitasking can seem like a necessity.

Exactly what is multitasking? Simply put, it’s handling more than one task at the same time, like watching TV while preparing dinner. Many moms feel that multitasking is essential in order to handle the myriad tasks thrown at them throughout the day. But continual multitasking can lead to stress. What are some multitasking skills that can contribute to a more peaceful life?

1. Call it What it Is

Particularly if you’re a mom, you may not truly be multitasking at all, but practicing what’s known as continuous partial attention (CPA). CPA occurs when you are engaged in one main activity, but are also monitoring several other situations in case anything occurs that needs your attention. For instance, you may be typing up an email at the computer, but you’re also listening to the news on the radio and monitoring the sound of your children playing in the living room as well as the sound of the pot cooking on the stove. Moms utilize continuous partial attention most all the time simply as a necessity.

2. Multitask only Routine Tasks

If you need to write a letter to a potential new employer or listen to test results called in from your doctor’s office, those are not times to multitask. Save your multitasking skills for routine tasks that can reasonably be done simultaneously: watching television, going through junk mail, checking a child’s homework, drying dishes. Give your full attention to items that are high priority.

3. Limit Multitasking

Many researchers have found that humans operate at a lower level while multitasking, so even if it seems necessary to do several things at once, give yourself breaks. If you feel your stress level building as you try to supervise homework, clean the house, cook dinner and get a work assignment done all at once, give yourself permission to quit one or more of your tasks. Could any of them be put off until tomorrow? Research has shown that we can actually function more optimally when we concentrate on one task at a time.

4. Enlist Recruits

If you feel compelled to multitask, let one of your tasks be finding some support. Could your spouse help the kids with homework tonight? Could you and a neighbor each make a double batch of dinner and then share the extra with each other, so no cooking is needed tomorrow? A little creativity can help reduce your need to multitask in the first place.

5. Remove Distractions

When you are multitasking, give yourself every advantage by removing any unnecessary distractions. Do you need the radio or television on? If not, turn it off. Do you feel compelled to check email each time you hear the ding of an incoming message? Turn the volume off, or even (gasp!) turn off the computer for an hour or so. Life will actually go on, and you will get more accomplished.

Multitasking may be a necessity, but by trying to limit it to a manageable level, you will bring sanity to your life.

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