Multitasking gets a bad rap. Research shows that you can’t truly “divide” your attention between two or more tasks. Rather, your mind switches from tasks quickly, which dilutes your focus on any one thing and can make it hard to get things done.
Still, multitasking feels like an important skill for a busy parent! It seems clever, if not necessary, to do multiple things at once. But it’s important to remember that quality is usually better than quantity. It’s a better strategy to do one thing really well than two things just okay. Yet there are plenty of tasks that don’t require tons of focus – is it really bad to multitask those items? Like making that phone call while folding laundry, or listening to that podcast while driving to soccer practice.
Perhaps a better way to think about these strategies is “batching.” Batching your tasks will make getting things done many times easier and more efficient. There are two types of batching:
- Doing similar tasks at the same time
- Pairing together tasks that complement each other
Do you have a bunch of phone calls to make? Veggies to prep for the week? Emails to respond to? Bills to pay? If so, try scheduling a designated time to do all those things at once. When you’re in the groove of responding to emails for an hour, you’ll breeze through them quickly rather than have them nag at you all week. We gain efficiency by doing similar tasks all at once, instead of spreading them out.
Throughout the day you probably have a number of small tasks to do: errands to run, places to chauffeur your children, phone calls to make, homework to oversee, meals to prepare, etc. Can you group these tasks in such a way that you double or triple the efficiency of your time?
For example, maybe you decide to make social phone calls only on the way home from dropping your child at her violin lesson. Create a connection in your mind between driving and socializing to make the drive more fun, efficient, and go more quickly! Or if your son has tutoring for an hour and it doesn’t make sense to drive home, use that hour to grocery shop, take a long walk, or take another child on a special date.
Other ways to batch:
- Phone call while cleaning the house
- Family homework time
- While a child does dishes, you prepare food for the next day
- Journaling while waiting for a child’s class to end
Our contemporary lifestyles with their many competing demands makes it difficult to do every task one by one. Besides, it’s more energizing to talk on the phone while exercising or cleaning instead of just sitting somewhere! Instead of attempting to multitask between several important tasks, brainstorm ways to “batch” different tasks together so that you save time and stress.
What are some of your favorite batched activities?