Multitasking to Save Time

My wellness a-game is to reduce stress. It has been like peeling an onion. I keep finding new layers within myself that I can change to help me reduce stress. As I peel some layers, I have found I do too many things at once. At home, at work, everywhere. And I don’t care what anyone says, when you do more than one thing at a time (currently called multi-tasking), you are not efficient. You are prone to mistakes. Dinner burns (yes, it does!) and your mind feels stressed in the process

I really feel that when you're multitasking, you are really trying to race to do two things at once. This causes your mind to think that you have to get more things done faster. Two things happen. First whenever I go too fast with anything I make mistakes. I drop things, I type the wrong word, I do something wrong, you name it I've done it. Second, the “race” causes stress. Your body tenses in anticipation of the physical effort. Shoulders hunch. Mind squeezes into gear. Adrenaline starts pumping. Less than two minutes in and I am feeling stress.

Multitasking causes me to make mistakes because my mind is not fully engaged on what it is doing. I jump from task to task and miss little signals along the way. I answer the phone and simultaneously respond to an email. Then I will either recognizably be silent when I should be responding on the phone, or I will be typing the wrong word, or hitting enter too soon on the email. Then I have more work to do because I have to fix my mistake, or spend longer on the phone.

The same thing happens at home. While I am making dinner, I am also trying to empty the dishwasher, or make lunches. Inevitably something happens with dinner - a pot overflows or said burned dinner results. This delays dinner, or causes me to fix a mess that wouldn’t have otherwise been there. Both take more time than originally planned, causing me to feel more time stressed.

My brain also feels fatigued when I multitask. A frequent thing I tend to do is read, scroll on my phone, or surf Pinterest while watching TV. Sometimes I am there to keep my husband company, but many times I am there to watch the news. Trying to keep track of the story on TV, the story in my book or news feed, and my mind can actually hurt.

I’ve also noticed that I tend to start something and then all of a sudden shift to something else before finishing the first item. I’ll read an email or text while working on a project, or half way into doing the dishes at home, I’ll water a plant. I didn’t plan to multitask, but all of a sudden I am. I think this is all part of my “quick, get things done” habit, but whatever it is, it makes me feel like I have too much going on. This habit will be a hard one to break.

What really causes me the most stress however is the racing through things. The whole concept of “racing” puts your body on alert. Ready, set go! Now finish as fast as possible. Done? Move on to the next thing, hurry up, go! Race from one thing to the next. How much can you get done? I don’t know, but keep trying!

Lately, I have been experimenting with doing only one thing at a time. Once I set my mind on doing just that one thing, I then start doing it more slowly than in the past, more of a normal pace actually. A surprising thing happened - I don’t feel as stressed as I used to! In fact, sometimes I didn’t feel stressed at all.

Then I started walking down the hall slowly. Unhunching my shoulders. Looking around. Silly? Over exaggerated? Yes, but it works! I’m feeling less stress. The other night at dinner I found myself doing two things at once, again, unloading the dishwasher in between cooking. I caught myself and stopped. Then all I did was make dinner. Boy was it hard not to check my phone, or open that dishwasher. Again, I was surprised by the result. I almost enjoyed cooking dinner - shocker in our house as I usually do it out of necessity. In fact, I was actually looking forward to combining ingredients and tasting the finished product.

So far in my experiments to reduce stress, I am finding the blame often lands squarely on me. Whether I’m rushing through things to get more done, racing to finish faster, or multitasking, it’s all my fault. As I look back at my mind map, a few of my goals were to slow down, single task and block time. There, I knew it all along, I just had to do it.