I've been thinking a lot about all of the things I juggle everyday. Parenting, working, cooking, housekeeping, blogging, you know... life! Since James was born, I've become a master multi-tasker. Nursing a baby, while discussing work on the phone, while checking my email... or simultaneously making dinner, and cleaning the kitchen, while the iPad props on the kitchen counter playing an audiobook, bouncing Elliott on my hip, and the kids or Jeff talking to me. The combinations are seemingly endless, and so too are the tasks to be done. I think back to moments of multitasking with wonder, thinking, how did I get through all that? I'm amazed, but not proud. After a long day of multitasking I'm often a bit bewildered and feel as though much of it was done on autopilot, without much contemplation or awareness. Is this efficient? Is it valuable? Is it my best? Is it healthy?
Of course, we all know that it can be stressful, but researchers at Stanford Medical have recently conducted a series of studies which suggest that multitasking may even be damaging to our cognitive control. Yikes, I like my brain's executive functions the way they are! So, I'm making an effort to tone down my impulse to multitask. Over the past week, I've really tried to focus on unitasking. Whaaa? You know... the opposite of the multi-task. I've tried to focus all of my energy and brain power on just one thing at a time. Total game-changer, you guys! I mean, you really have to make an effort- because multitasking has become such a prevalent and necessary behavior in our culture, but try it! It's like turning off the background noise. Think of all the ways in which we're splitting our attention throughout the day... walking down the street, talking on the phone/checking email/sending texts... eating lunch at our desks, while we try to finish a bit of work. For most employees, multitasking is a job requirement. For mothers, it sure comes in handy. But look at that photo of Elliott up there... is that the beginning of multitasking?! Nursing is a special experience between a mother and child- do I really need to get other things done while I feed him? And is he seeing and learning from that behavior? Is this why he now enjoys nursing while driving a Hot Wheels car over my breasts? I have to remind myself to focus on those fleeting moments with him- the warmth, the snuggle, the nourishment... it's such a sweet thing to be able to hold my little wiggle worm close against me for a few minutes and have him wrap his arms around me and hold still. I can be present in the moment, kiss him, cuddle and hold his hands without wondering if I've got a new message on my phone.
Think you need the multi-task? You might. Sometimes. Every busy mother knows that sometimes it's just the only way to really be functional and get through the day. But honestly, we can all find little ways to harness and redirect our attention in a more focussed way. It may even make us more efficient, and help us to produce a higher quality outcome in work and relationships. Would you want your doctor doing surgery on you while chatting on the phone? No. Taking on too many tasks at once dilutes our abilities. Unitasking is a really wonderful way to redirect yourself and rest your mind, while devoting 100% of your focus on the task at hand, and only the task at hand. Do one thing, and do it well. If I'm cooking, I can truly enjoy the experience and take the time to do my very best. The same goes for working... I have special days and times set aside to do it- so I can really devote myself to doing it well. Parenting is a privilege... and giving a child all of my attention while they tell me a silly story, or nurse, or just sit next to me, is special. It makes them feel important, and it gives me an opportunity to notice all of the little things I might otherwise overlook in my typically hectic life. Like Evelyn's newest freckle, the beginnings of a sore throat in James' voice, or the way that Elliott's feet are stretching out. It's also great for the time I spend with Jeff. Our time alone is so limited with 3 children, and often at the end of a long day once they're all asleep- I forget or neglect to focus on just him. It's easy to collapse on the couch in front of a movie, but it's so nice to spend one-on-one time with him and really listen when he talks, and really engage in adult dialog. But unitasking is also great for simple pleasures... like drinking a cup of tea, closing your eyes, and enjoying the flavors. Or relaxing in the tub, and appreciating the heat, the weightlessness, and the peace. Ahhh... the peace.
Anyway, I highly recommend giving it a go and letting go of some of your own multitasking moments.
Do less, accomplish more!
Do less, accomplish more!