My husband often jokes that I’m not able to sit and relax – if I do sit down and do nothing more than watch TV, then I’ll just fall asleep. I’m actually supposed to be having a cup of tea and relaxing for a few minutes now before I start Tiddler’s bedtime routine, but so far I’ve hung some washing out, put some more laundry into the washing machine, started a shopping list for the next trip to Sainsbury’s, and drafted this blog!
My default setting seems to be ‘busy’. I can’t just sit and ‘be’. If I’m catching up on a TV show then I’ll probably also be knitting at the same time, or checking Facebook on the Kindle. If I’m doing some washing up then I’ll also be planning the family meals for the week ahead whilst trying to keep Toddler entertained and wiping dribble off Tiddler’s chin. If I’m cooking a meal that will take a while, then I’ll try and wash up as I go and maybe give the kitchen surfaces a thorough clean. I also always make a point of picking things up as I go – for example taking dry laundry upstairs if I happen to be going in that direction, chucking toys into boxes before I leave a room. This may all seem quite manic but being able to do a couple of things at once really saves some time.
I know that I shouldn’t try to overdo it as I just end up feeling worn out (my default setting after ‘being busy’ is ‘feeling exhausted’…), and there are some things that shouldn’t be done simultaneously, such as making up a baby’s bottle whilst drinking a glass of water. Yes, I have done that, and yes, I did get water all down myself and baby milk all over the floor. Also, it’s best not to get distracted by doing too many things at once. Many a time I’ve nearly ruined dinner by trying to get the cleaning done and check Twitter on my phone at the same time!
So, having had a good think about multi-tasking, here are a few tips to multi-task well:
– Combine a mental and a physical activity; no time to read a book? Then try listening to an audio book whilst doing the ironing or washing up
– Multiple benefits from one activity – take the kids for a walk in the park, a good way to get them active, keep them occupied, and allows you to get some exercise (you could also use the time whilst you’re walking to mull things over and plan things for the week ahead)
– Stay focused – as I mentioned earlier, getting distracted by doing low-impact tasks such as checking email/ social media whilst you’re doing something else can end up making things take longer or harm productivity. Stick to doing two or three related things and you’ll find your mind stays more focused and you’ll get stuff done, rather than trying to squeeze in six unrelated things and end up not doing any of them properly
– Try not to worry about the little things that haven’t been done! You can only multi-task so far, and unless you grow some octopus style arms, then you really can’t do everything at once. Make a list and try to get the essentials done, after that anything else is a bonus!!