Single tasking is admittedly very hard for me. The truth is that I feel like we are encouraged over and over again as women that doing more than one thing at a time is a badge of honor. As if somehow trying to juggle the laundry, dinner and homework all in the same breath makes you a better mom.
The reality is that we are physically capable of doing more than one thing at any given moment, however the quality whatever it is that we are attempting will be lacking. That is the cold hard truth. If we are simply after crossing off a million items on our to do list and doing them all half way, then multi tasking is the way to go.
I am willing to bet that does not sound very appealing to most of us. For me, the days when I am focused and zeroed in on a few key tasks, giving them my full attention, I feel much more accomplished at the end of the day.
At any given point throughout the day we are all bombarded with thoughts and to dos swirling around our heads. When we try and put out the next fire without a game plan, is when we begin to feel overwhelmed and stretched too thin. This is a dangerous game to play. I literally find myself at times, sitting there frozen, not moving or doing anything from the simple fact that I want to do all the things.
The truth is that our brain is not designed to multi task. When we try to(and oh boy do we try) it almost always ends in frustration and guilt because we “can’t” keep up. Our minds can go a million different directions, but our bodies cannot.
I have found the idea of single tasking, doing one thing at a time, and being fully in it, aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it, to be very challenging but also very effective. Approaching my day in this way removes a lot of the stress that is often paired with my never ending and ever growing to do list.
When I put this into practice, I find myself able to stay in the zone and finish whatever it is I started. That right there is a win. A really good example of this is laundry. Man oh man, I can get the laundry started, into the washer and switched to the dryer like a champ. But when it comes time to fold and put away, forget about it. Those poor clothes usually hang out in a few different spots that are not our drawers or closets. They will either remain in the basket, or be dumped out onto the bed(because if I do that I will certainly HAVE to fold them right?) or half are folded and half remain untouched.
This is simply one of many examples that I know we can all relate to. In a culture where we are have so many options and stimulation, our days so easily get filled up with tasks that we had not planned on doing. In the meantime the tasks we set out to do, that are most important to us are left untouched or given the leftovers of our attention.
With all that being said, I have found a few things to be helpful when I find myself wanting to jump from thing to thing, or chasing squirrels as they say.
First, I make a master list to get everything out of my head, all the crazy thoughts floating around and distracting me, I write them down in one place. Then I look at that list, and I hold it up next to my day. From there I decide what I can reasonably tackle and accomplish.
From there I decide on my top 3 Most Valuable Tasks. What are the 3 things that if I accomplish fully, when I put my head on the pillow at night will help me to feel productive and fulfilled. The temptation is huge to add more or to get in the zone and think I can do more of that thing once I finished the task on the list. However, I try to stay disciplined and guard my time fiercely so that I am able to fulfill the goals I set out to do at the beginning of the day.
This is sometimes easier said than done, but when I stick to this approach I am able to feel the pride of finishing and I like I accomplished what I set out to do. Then if I am able to do more, awesome, if not, thats ok to, tomorrow is a new day.
I also find it useful to train my mind to stay focused on what I am doing. This is a work in progress, but for instance, when I am brushing my teeth. Something I do everyday, and it’s so automatic that it doesn’t take much brainpower. Instead of having music or a podcast going, I will try to be very aware of the act of bruising my teeth. Putting the toothpaste on, how it feels in my mouth, you get the idea. This helps me to remember what it feels like to be mindful and is an easy way to flex that brain muscle.
Overall, keeping it simple is the name of the game. Focus on one thing at a time and be proud of yourself for that. This is absolutely a paradigm shift and will initially feel uncomfortable. Overtime I am certain that this approach to life and your days will create a calm, peaceful environment that will not only benefit you, but your family as well.