How To Multitask
- April 30, 2015
- by Melissa Lawrence
Hello everyone. Today’s blog is the second in my Reflection Thursdays series. In this series, I’ll be writing about happiness, wellness, motivation, peace of mind and other goodies that I’ve been striving to achieve. I hope you will tune in and help me think about these issues, and weigh in with your thoughts!! Welcome back to Reflection Thursdays and here’s my second post!! xoxo Melissa
Our lives don’t take place as blocks of time, as hours, days, weeks or years. Rather, they unfold as an infinite series of moments.
When we’re busy, we flit from one moment to the next, trying to pack as many duties and responsibilities into our time as we can. Such has been my way of leading of my days since I became a mom.
But lately, I’ve been making a lot of mistakes. Last week, I went to pick up one of my sons from soccer and had missed the fact that his coach had changed the field. Yesterday, another child waited 30 minutes after a class in the neighborhood. We do have five kids and these sort of mishaps are going to happen, or at least I console myself with that. But they fill me with guilt that I am letting my kids down.
One of the reasons these little mishaps keep happening is that I am not sufficiently paying attention to individual details. For example, I get an email about soccer practice having been changed, but I am doing something else at the same time. So I forget to take note of it. I save about 10 seconds, but how much time did I lose later by actually being in the wrong location?
Harder than fitting a lot in in life is taking the time for things that they need. My generation of moms have come of age as glorious multi-taskers. We applaud ourselves for the many things we are able to “get done,” for how much we can “balance.” Remember the old saying “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan,” with that early businesswoman pioneer at the skillet clad in work attire? These images are all over our culture and we try to live up to them. It’s so hard for us to say “sorry, that is too much to handle.” “I’m sorry, I don’t have time.” To say “I don’t have time” sounds like selfishness — how can someone not have time for someone else?
Yet as a result of this pressure to constantly multitask and fit an inhuman amount of responsibilities into a limited period of time, we experience time pressure, and in my case, some mishaps or mess-ups that affect my kids.
Plus we lose something even more important. We lose the joy of feeling calm and productive, the mental pleasure of working in a focused way without feeling split or divided between multiple demands or issues at once.
I find myself thinking back nostalgically to when I sat lodged in a basement study area of my college’s library immersed in a Political Science paper. Nothing else crossed my mind. I was single focused. I was PAYING ATTENTION and paying attention feels good because we are able to think through things, do our best, and have the peace of mind that comes with thinking.
More and more, I’m realizing that what helps me move through my day — and actually what helps me multitask — is an ability to pay attention, good attention to what is in front of me, and then move to something else. Any guide on how to multitask will propose that you structure your day in blocks of time, moving carefully from one set of duties to another, not that you rush through things, failing to do them properly (as I am apt to do). One of the secrets to multitasking is doing one thing at a time.
I’m learning that I need to SLOW DOWN to SPEED UP. And in order to live a more fulfilling life.
Here’s an example. This morning, Lachlan had a Invention Convention at his school. The entire 4th grade swirled around a packed gym, as parents marveled over all the clever inventions their sons and classmates had conceived. After having spent time with Lachlan, I visited with a few other boys and talked to them about their projects. There were 50 boys there. There wasn’t enough time to experience each and every project, so I tried to concentrate on a few. In the past, I would have felt like I needed to see each and every project and touch base with each and every parent, or at least as many as I could.
But lately, I’m trying a different technique. I’m trying to pick and choose and pay careful attention to fewer things so that I can give them greater attention.
Here’s another example. You’re at a crowded event with people you know and someone is in front of you explaining something that is important to them. You have a choice: you can focus in and PAY ATTENTION to them, shutting everyone else out for moment or giving a friendly side-wave indicated that you are immersed in conversation, or you can look away while they are speaking, giving in to your anxiety that you will not have said hello to everyone. To me, paying attention is the smarter, nicer, more kind way to go. It allows you to CONNECT with others, plus it makes you feel like your time is spent in a quality way. And doesn’t the other person feel better when you are actually listening versus worrying about who else you need to say hello to?
This morning we celebrated Marc’s birthday over breakfast. Marc needed to leave for work at 7:30 so it was an early birthday table. My phone was practically jumping out towards me with all the logistical matters I needed to figure out, but I managed to let it sit on the sidelines until Marc and the boys were off. I’m learning to do this, but it’s a process that takes discipline: I have to keep reminding myself to pay attention, to not get distracted. Because if I’m on that phone, I’m not paying attention to the celebrations, I’m missing an important moment, a moment that will never happen again. But that phone will always be there with many unanswered emails.
There will never be a moment in my life where I don’t have something else to do.
I will never have everything done.
What I can do is learn to pay attention in a more singular way to one thing at a time, to move through life more carefully, to slow down, to learn how to live in the moment, and to accept that I am not a robot. I’m only a woman who can only move as fast and as well as she can, and well, that pace will just have to suffice.
I had about 30 minutes to write this blog today. It’s not going to win a Noble Prize but hopefully, one of you awesome mamas will see it and feel that you could relate. For those 30 minutes, I put the other demands on my time on hold and I PAID ATTENTION. That felt good. That felt liberating, cathartic, like therapy. Paying attention allows us to escape from the frenetic moments of our lives and breathe and enjoy and think and be.
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So here’s to paying attention. Here’s to focus. Here’s to learning to live in the moment, To choosing to do one thing over another and giving that thing priority. Here’s to focusing in on another human being.
Here’s to hopefully picking up your kid on time and in the right place!
And here’s to a happier day.