I used to pride myself in the fact that I was a multi-tasking kind of person who could do everything important at the same time.
I would get so frustrated with Ben because he’d be getting supper ready, but just make one thing at a time, and seem to forget about the rest, whereas I would obviously have done everything perfectly and had my meat, potatoes and vegetables ready at exactly the same time. Obviously. I would also have kept the laundry going and kept our girls blissfully entertained. Because I’m so perfect. Or something.
But just a little while ago, I read that it is actually impossible for a person to do more than one thing at the same time. You are only able to think about one thing at a time. You can quickly switch back and forth between things that you are focusing on, and do little bits of each thing, but you cannot do them at the same time.
So if you’re watching a movie while folding the laundry, you will focus a little on the laundry, then focus on the movie for a little while, then switch your focus back to your laundry.
Multi-tasking means that your attention is not fully on either thing that you are trying to accomplish.
Which is why I constantly burn pancakes.
I try to be all multi-tasking about breakfast, and get all the other food going while I’m making pancakes, and I always wreck the pancakes.
Ben makes perfect pancakes. He focuses on one thing, and doesn’t fly around the kitchen, trying to do a million things at the same time. If you want pancakes or anything else cooked on the stove, like stir-fry, you want Ben to make it. I can get away with my “multi-tasking” in slower cooking situations, but anything made on a stove-top brings the truth to light – I’m not able to pay attention to everything at the same time.
As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t be better for me to ditch the idea that multi-tasking is the ultimate goal in life. Fold the laundry quick, then enjoy the movie. Do something well, do it fast, move on to the next thing, be fully present.
I realize that sometimes, this is not possible. Sometimes multi-tasking is necessary. But when I can, I want to be more focused. Reading a book to Kaylia while checking email shouldn’t happen. Not like I do that often…just once…. And phone conversations can just be conversations. The person on the line can totally tell if you’re not completely listening.
So here’s to being fully present.
Check out this article on digital multitasking if you want to read more on the topic.