To Multitask Or Not Multitask That Is The Question

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.” Steve Uzzell


As women, we pride ourselves with being able to do a million things at once, but can we really? It seems to me that we have been sold a bunch of lies when we were told that multitasking is good for you and makes you more efficient. That is a lie that we need to stop believing. I am reading the book “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan where you focus on just one thing for 66 days. This book has been very eye opening! They focus on one thing for 66 days but I think we could break it up into simply focusing on one thing at a time as we go about our day. The chapter on multitasking hit home with me!


When I work with clients I have a rule that they can not leave the room that we are organizing. What happens when they leave the room to put something away they suddenly find something else that needs to be done. I call this the “If you give a mom a cookie” phenomena after the popular children’s book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”  For example, if I were to go and check my mail I would see that a bill needs to be paid, I would reach for my checkbook to pay the bill only to find out that I am out of checks. Then I get on my computer to pay the bill online and I see a funny cat video one of my friends posted and then I decide I better go on Pinterest to see what to make for supper. Three hours later no bill has been paid and my morning has been sucked away. I lost track of my one thing, paying that bill. What should have taken me two minutes took me three hours. I think I can do it all at once; I can’t.


Some people say that they can multitask, I am hesitant to agree. I am the girl who can’t even walk and text. My husband makes fun of me when I stop to reply to a text. Hey I have seen those videos of girls walking into holes on the street, I don’t want that to be me! I admit that I am bad at walking and texting, so I will not do it.


However I think I can multitask at household chores that I find enjoyable. I can cook a five course meal while juggling the different components of the meal and not break a sweat. My friends who have watched me says it is like watching a cooking show as I move from recipe to recipe. But put me in front of my desk with 20 things to do and I’ll flounder from one to the other doing a bit here or there. When in reality I should simply go down my list and don’t take a break until my “one thing” is done.


While working with clients I have them create a distraction free zone, no family, pets or phones. We work solid for three hours. I need to take my own advice and start doing that as well. Too often my mind is jumping from one thing to the next, really not completing anything. But they have completed studies on multitasking and it doesn’t work. Sure there are some multitaskers out there, but for the majority of us, it does not make us efficient.


So today I am taking my list in hand and systematically working my way down it. I didn’t sleep last night because I knew how much I had to complete today. Today I have to bring my “A” game and I have to be efficient. Today I am not going to bounce from project to project, oh look a squirrel! Here are some tips that I am using to get my projects done today.


1. Leave my phone in another room. I can go without hearing a text come in. Better yet is to turn off your notifications on your phone. I use to have email notifications on my phone that would ding each time an email came in. I really don’t need to see the latest sale at Pottery Barn. So if you are one of those email notifications people, please turn them off.


2. Turn off the social media. Yes it is sometimes hard when our brains are looking for that hit of dopamine to see how many people liked our Facebook post or Instagram photo. But everything in moderation. Turn it off for a period of time. Learn to wean yourself off of the social media hit.


3. Make a list. Too often I have a mental list that I try to keep track of. It doesn’t work. Having a list and brain dumping everything I need out on a good old fashioned piece of paper makes sense. On days where I am not feeling very productive I will do the hardest thing first on my list. Taking the one hard thing off my list seems to make everything else go smoother.


4. Take care of other distractions. I work at home and my kids are home for the summer. Some days I simply need to close my office door. If you work in an office setting and need quiet, create a system that people know to leave you alone. Maybe it is to place a red piece of paper on your door that signals stop and only come in if you are on fire or bleeding. Once you are distracted, it takes several minutes to get back the work groove you were in.


5. Set a timer. Yes this really works. Work on your one thing until the timer goes off. I have used this trick on tasks that I am really dreading, like paperwork. But I know I can quit when the timer goes off so I keep on going. Sometimes we need these little tricks for our brain to get things done!


What would happen if you focused on one thing in regards to your daily tasks and said no to multitasking? Is this something that could make you more productive?


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.