Multi-tasking: A more efficient life or a more unwell person?

I was chatting with a friend about the myth of multi-tasking; she’s intrigued as multi-tasking is crucial to her survival (e.g. biking while doing work, etc.). And I don’t think she’s alone – there are many working mommas and poppas and non-parent persons who are all just trying to figure it out by any and all means possible.

Research has found our brains aren’t so good at focusing on two things at once, deeply focusing that is. What the brain is doing is “switch-tasking” quickly. I have never been able to listen to music and study, go figure.

But what really struck me about our conversation wasn’t so much the multi-tasking myth – that I’ve been familiar with for a while (humble brag…I know, it’s annoying) – it was more so her response to my question, “…but are you well?” I wanted to know if all the multi-tasking was really making for a more efficient life or a more unwell person. And my gut was right (humble brag again…I’m on fire).

We are trying to do so much in so little time. So why not remove some of the “so much”? How? Here’s a few quick ideas to start swirling around your ol’ squishy processor:

  1. Be intentional with your time. Ask yourself: what matters most? What’s the end goal? For me: my kids and my husband (and my mom and dad, of course) and maintaining a healthy and happy marriage. Yes, I care about my friends, but my progeny and marriage are the number one priorities right now.  There is no way on this green earth that I can be kind and compassionate to my beloveds without cutting a whole bunch of other stuff (and stuff I really like) from my calendar.
  2. What do you wish to embody? For me, it’s kindness. Everyone at work is always shocked when I share that I can be downright nasty to my husband. This is not surprising given we always put our best masks on at work and for good reason: we want to remain employed and being a miserable wench is a serious limiting factor. So we play nice and manage our emotions only to blow of steam at home on the people we love the most. So I’ve decided to keep a little in the tank; to not give everything at work and save some for my kiddos and hubs. It also means carving out time to get my ass to the gym. I’m nicer when I exercise. You could be to!
  3. Cancel evening and weekend plans or keep to bare bones minimum. We have an unspoken one event per weekend rule. Every so often it gets altered, but we do it if we can. My inner planner sometimes screams inwardly as I love planning and hosting, but I know it will exhaust more than exhilarate right now. Yes, we are uber boring right now. It’s simply a reality of our existence with two young humans (I’m still trying to come to terms with the boring aspect, just so we’re clear). This includes kid activities, personal appointments, chores, etc.
  4. Spend friend time wisely. I have great friends (another HB). They are people I love being around, but I don’t see often enough. And it’s not because I can’t see them, it’s because I am picky with how I spend my free hours (of which are very few). For many, I’ll go months without seeing them. For those close by, I see you more often (geography is a big predictor of friendships, in my humble opinion). For those in my book club, I’ll always see you every month as it’s one of my favourite social gatherings. For everyone else, I hope you’ll forgive this moment in time when I’m more available by text than I am in person (yes, I’m using this as a platform to assuage my guilt). It’s not that I don’t want to see everyone all the time, it’s just that I can’t or I’ll completely emotionally and physically deplete myself (right now – it’s not forever). And important point: for those who can’t give slack, find compassion or forgive the lack of physical presence – cut them out. While friendship is a two-way street, it should also be oozing with compassion. Surround yourself with the best of the best and this won’t be an issue.
  5. Pick your battles at work. Holy smokes, I cannot believe how much emotional energy is given to work by so many. Work steals our soul at times and we just…let it. It’s not that we shouldn’t care about work. I LOVE my job and want everyone else to feel the same, but the amount of anxiety and stress I often feel working at a job I love is a little shocking at times. Every day, I work to manage my level of emotional investment by asking myself: what’s the goal? Usually if I’m in a conflict with someone I work with, I’ll go in with the assumption that our goal is the same (i.e. to make our workplace even more awesome) and we can usually find a solution. Try it – it’s a good strategy (if I may say so myself…told you, on fire…).
  6. Stop numbing. I’m working on this one all the time. Music and podcasts could be numbing. Instragram scrolling, writing blogs, eating, exercising, drinking, television, reading, gossiping – all could be forms of numbing depending on how and when you do it. For me, watching television and instragram scrolling are numbing exercises that do NOTHING for my well-being. Well, somtimes television does a little lift for my spirit, but not really. If you’re doing something to avoid doing or feeling something, that’s numbing and by god, we do a lot of it. My reasoning is that this world is bloody overwhelming and we need a way to tune out. And because that’s a whole lot easier, we stay there. Check your numbing.

OK that’s it. Enough writing for tonight! Excuse the mistakes, no time for editing tonight.

M

Photo credit to Harry Sandhu

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