Can humans multitask? YES!
Today I had to laugh. I felt like I had a hundred things on the go all at once. And I wondered if everyone else’s life was as mad as mine. It made me think about multitasking, and how with our busy lives, multitasking is now just a normal part of life.
It occurred to me as I had my dishwasher going, the washing machine on, the clothes dryer drying a load of clothes I had just washed, the kettle was on, I had food in the oven cooking for later in the week, I had food being prepared in the thermomix, and I had another two dishes ready to go into the oven, all while I was listening to a webinar so that I could stay on top of my learning and development needs. And I wondered when my life had turned into this! It was calmer than it sounds, and all very ordered and systematic, which is why I was able to have the webinar going.
My husband had taken the kids out for the morning so I grabbed the opportunity to get lots done around the house. The only problem is, I find the house stuff that needs to get done not particularly exciting, and I’d much rather be working on my websites or doing more training, as I always like to be improving my skills.
I love multitasking. I feel like if I’m not multitasking, I’m not getting enough done. Or something like that!
What exactly is multitasking?
Multitasking is when we juggle different work activities and shift our attention from one task to another. To be successful at multitasking, you need to be able to shift your concentration smoothly from one activity to another. You also need to be able to prioritise tasks, and address the most critical and pressing demands first.
How do I multitask?
For me, multitasking is about getting more done, in less time. But it isn’t about working harder, it’s about working smarter. No one wants to be exhausted, so multitasking can’t just be about squeezing more ‘stuff’ in. It’s about being efficient and effective with the time that we have. Sometimes, in order to do that, you need to slow down in order to accomplish more.
Whilst I may feel like I work at a million miles an hour and get a huge amount done, I like to take a very planned and methodical approach to that. I believe that multitasking is most successful when your mind is calm, when you feel you have some order to what you are doing, and you work systematically through.
There are lots of things that help me stay organised, that make multitasking easier for me. If you are disorganised then I believe multitasking isn’t effective. Here are some tips that will make multitasking easier for you:
When it comes to technology
- Return your devices to a centralised charging station when you have finished using them, and they will be always fully charged. You will never waste time looking for your devices, or running out of battery.
- Have a systematic way of naming documents, images and files, and store in folders or whatever makes sense to you, so that retrieving them when you need them later is easy.
- Bookmark important pages so you never lose them.
- Set very clear goals, with time frames attached so you’re never wondering what you need to work on next.
- Develop a method of tracking your goals and how your progress towards them.
- Save up particular tasks for times of the day or parts of the week that make sense for you. An example is that I save my online training for the weekend, or for particular times when I specifically need a piece of information so that I’m not skipping between learning and doing modes too regularly. That way I have dedicated learning time, I’m not trying to squeeze it into time that I have set aside for delivery.
When it comes to household things. If you don’t like routine, you really won’t like this! However, here are some tips that I use that have changed my life and help me stay sane and on track.
- Have a routine to the shopping, and list what you need to buy based on what you plan to cook for the week. I highly recommend doing a meal planner.
- Prepare as much food as you can on the weekend so that weeknights are less rushed, and after school activities can be done without worrying too much about the time.
- When you have a number of things to cook, learn what takes time, such as bringing water to the boil, cooking times etc, so you can have three or four things on the go at the once, knowing that they all have ‘wait times’.
- Clean as you go when you are cooking. That way your mind feels less cluttered, and you’re not left with a huge task at the end.
- Create a calendar of activities for the week, such as before and after school activities, and key things that are happening at school, work and in life.
- Organise your home so that things like cleaning items are grouped and kept in labeled baskets so you’re never looking for products.
Work and life:
- When my kids are doing their after school sporting activities, I pack my laptop and charger and work while they do their activities.
- The weekend sporting activities are the same. Don’t get me wrong, I watch my kids do sport. The fact is though, they like to do it for 5 or 6 hours at a time, so it’s a time when I can also get through a lot of work.
Work out if there are activities that can go together based on location. For example, when my kids are having their showers and getting dressed, I’m upstairs with them to help, but I’m also folding the laundry for that day and putting it away. I don’t like leaving laundry all over the place, so it’s usually packed away the day it’s done, or the day after.
You might find some routines that work well for you that help keep you organised, allowing you to not waste time on them when you’d rather be productive.
Parents are particularly good at multitasking
You’re all saying ‘well der I know that’! It’s true. I think when you’re a parent, you have no choice but to multi skill. And this couldn’t be truer for parents of twins and multiple children. I know this because I’m a mother to twins. When our boys were babies, they both wanted to be fed, changed and loved at the same time. I think this was the start of my desire, or need rather, to be organised and learn to do multiple things at a time. I will never forget when they were tiny, I would feed one of them whilst pushing the other in the pram, because they really enjoyed the movement of the pram. And then I would swap. There was never a time when I wasn’t doing something.
When they slept I would sterilise bottles, clean up, make multiple tiny portions of fruits and vegetables, and a million other things, all ready for the shift when they would wake up again!
Multitasking helped me build a new online skill set
I was working full time and being a mum to our beautiful boys when I decided I wanted to learn an entirely new skill set. I wanted to learn how to create my own websites. I was able to do that in my spare time and while my life continued to carry on in what was already a very full schedule. How did I do this?
Initially, it was a tablet and headphones that enabled me to get started. I remember the day. I was in the park watching my kids play as I signed up to join Wealthy Affiliate. I also completed my first module of learning that day. My boys asked me what I was doing, and I explained. “I’m learning something new while you’re playing. Isn’t that exciting?” And then I was hooked, and I’ve never looked back.
Training was completed in a variety of places, and milestones were reached. Nothing suffered as a result, as I was just using the time that I had more effectively.
If you want to learn to build an online career from home and think you can’t fit it in, I think that you can. There are plenty of tools available to you, that you can access in your own time. Take that first step. You can do it!