Why Not to Multi-Task

According to a 2011 study by Careerbuilder,  nearly half of employers (45 percent) think workers at their organization are currently burned out on their jobs. Although this was a survey of employers specifically, the word “job” easily extends beyond the office to include parents and bloggers. After all, those are full-time positions for many, part-time for others. And what about those of us who are juggling all three?

Sound familiar?

The dog days of summer that just passed were not nearly as relaxing as I’d hoped/remembered they should be. What ever happened to endless days at the beach and nights spent chasing fireflies?

Personally, I have a serious case of burn-out so bad that a Labor Day weekend spent at my mother’s being waited on hand and foot could not come fast enough. Ah, but every weekend cannot unfortunately be spent at Chateau Nana’s, as we’ve affectionately come to call my mother’s comfortable home where even the dogs seem to find their way on to the couch.

And just think, the busy winter months and holidays are looming just ahead. But I digress.

With as many hats as we wear, it’s not unusual to turn to multi-tasking to accomplish all we need (or want) to in any given day. Fortunately (or unfortunately), technology has made it easier than ever: Make a phone call while driving; check email while on a conference call; eat lunch at your desk; surf Facebook while on the elliptical. But is it really more beneficial? Apparently not.

Splitting our attention on more than one task at a time is not as productive as we may have thought. If you engage in multiple activities at once, you aren’t fully engaged in any of them. And that means it takes you longer to accomplish each task than if you had done them one by one. Not to mention your risk for making mistakes goes up.


Yes, I am one of those who pride myself on multi-tasking. Mostly because my brain works in this crazy way (yup, I said it; I’m a little crazy!) and the body it attaches to craves constant motion. But the truth is that I often find myself utterly exhausted, or worse, cranky at day’s end. And sometimes my brain just becomes cloudy and unable to think clearly. If that’s not a sign of burnout, I’m not sure what

Although I haven’t eliminated the multi-tasking habit completely, I continue to take steps to curb it:

  • Get Together with Focus. Whether I am in the conference room at work, sharing a playdate with other moms, or having dinner with my family, I focus on that moment, that meeting. Or at least I try (this is after all a work in progress). It’s not always easy to do, but being in the present moment is more productive, not to mention less stressful.
  • Find your best time of day. Identify the 2-hour timeframe when you are naturally best at focusing, and do your most important tasks then. I am best able to write, pay bills, and be creative first thing in the morning. For you, it may be early evening. There’s no right or wrong time; what’s important is paying attention to your natural body rhythms, removing distractions, and focusing.
  • Give others a break. By that I mean, don’t expect or get upset when others don’t return a text, email or phone call immediately. The hope is that in return, they’ll give you the same respect, and that will make easier it easy to resist checking your phone and, say, focus on your garden.
  • Practice Yoga (or Meditate). One of the reasons why I fell in love with yoga was because it forces you to focus on your body, the way it feels in a pose and where you hold stress. You release the mental as well as the physical tension. Meditation is similar in that you concentrate on your breath or a mantra. Just a few yoga poses or 5 minutes of quiet meditation is enough to give your brain, and your body, an energy boost.
  • Run, Walk, Bike or Swim. It doesn’t matter what form of exercise you choose, by focusing on the rhythm of your stroke, rotation of your legs, or pace of your feet, your mind is better able to let go of other tasks and troubles. Bonus: you enhance your physical body while you’re at.
  • Take regular vacations. Whether a staycation or an exotic trip, a change of scenery always does us good. My family takes at least two week-long vacations every year. We also tack extra days on to long weekends and try to plan regular camping trips. By disconnecting from technology, and focusing on family and fun, you return to the real world with fresh perspective.

Do you often multi-task? How do you keep it in check?

I shared this post on Fat TuesdayHearth and SoulThe Gathering Spot, Frugal Days Sustainable WaysHealth 2dayThis Chick Cooks and Your Green Resource.


3 thoughts on “Why Not to Multi-Task

  1. I am bad about always working in a state of distraction. I actually stopped reading this post halfway through to go eat at the table instead of being on the computer and eating. I know I feel better emotionally and physically when I focus on what is at hand.

    Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday. Hope to see you there again tonight/tomorrow.

  2. I am just like you. I big multi tasker. As I get older I try to slow down and focus on the moment. Not do 10 things at once just because I can. Our world encourages it. I practice meditation to quiet my body and my brain 🙂 Thanks for sharing at The Gathering Spot this week. Great post!

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