The kids just got off the bus and, within five minutes, you're getting snacks, emptying lunch boxes and making suggestions for how to tackle that science project--multitasking is a required skill for a mom. While doing a million things at once comes easily to some people, for others it is much more challenging. Here are some multitasking tips for becoming a multitasking master:
Make a Reasonable To-Do List
Being organized is one of the most important multitasking skills. Make a daily or weekly list of things that have to get done, as well as things you'd like to get done. Divide your to-do list into mindless versus mindful tasks.
Mindless tasks include things like emptying the dishwasher, and throwing a load of laundry in the machine.
Mindful tasks include helping children with homework, completing a project for work, or getting your financial documents ready for that meeting with your tax preparer.
In order to be an efficient multitasker, you need to choose jobs that don't require your full attention. You can fold laundry while calling the plumber or your mother-in-law. You can wipe down the kitchen counter or clip coupons while the pasta is boiling on the stove. Tasks that you can practically do in your sleep are most suited for doing at the same time as other jobs.
Designate Some Venues and Times as Good (or Not-So-Good) Places to Multitask
Is there a time of day where you feel like you are always "killing time"? Waiting in the yard for the school bus to arrive or sitting in the van while you wait for soccer practice to end are perfect examples. Use these times to sort your mail, weed a patch of the garden, or place a phone order for those vacuum bags you've been meaning to order. If your preschoolers love to linger in the tub, that's a perfect time to scrub the toilet, mop the floor, or clean the mirrors in that room.
As a rule, a moving car should be a no-go zone for multitasking. Focusing on traffic, the road and weather conditions, and your family in the car is all you should worry about. Even hands-free talking can be highly distracting, meaning you neither have your full attention on the road nor on the person with whom you are speaking.
Remember That There Are Limitations to What Anyone Can Do Efficiently
People often multitask because they believe that important people are busy people. When you see a businessperson running across the street, trying to hail a cab while carrying on an intense work conversation, don't be convinced that he or she is doing things right. You can't check your email every two minutes and also get several other tasks done at the same time. Multitasking is a term that originated in the computer age. Remember that people are not computers. Give the important tasks and people in your life the time they deserve. And reward yourself for a job well done.
About the author: Alicia Klepeis is a freelance writer living in upstate New York. A former middle school geography teacher, she has written for the National Geographic Society, as well as magazines including The Dollar Stretcher, Fun For Kidz, Kiki and Sprinkles. She also writes for Suite 101. Her website is www.aliciaklepeis.com.