The Art of Multi-Tasking

If it seems like there is less time to get things done, you’re not alone. There always seems to be laundry piling up, bills to be paid, phone calls to make. So why is it that some people can get through the day, while you are floundering, barely able to keep your head above water? Aside from the fact that those people are possibly more organized than you, they may have learned the art of multi-tasking. That is, the ability to do two things at once.

Okay, you say, that’s all well and fine, but if you try to do too much at once, you lose concentration, and mess up, thus defeating the purpose. You’re right. Doing too much at once can cause more problems than the ones you are trying to solve. So you must learn to multi-task correctly. Here are some tips that will help guide you.


  • Map out your locations—At the beginning of the week, look at where you need to go, and how to get there. If some businesses or errands are located near each other, or on the way to or from a meeting, do your errands accordingly. The less times you have to go out, the more time you will have to yourself.
  • Share with a friend or neighbor—Does your neighbor have to go to the cleaners or library also? Swap locations with them, perhaps even on a regular basis. If you find yourself always passing the post office, but have to go out of your way to the Pet Store, see if someone you know goes in that direction and can help you out. Make sure you offer an errand in return.
  • Use children’s schedules to your advantage—Does it seem you are spending too much time sitting at practices, or waiting in the pediatrician’s office? You can use this time to your advantage. Take mail or magazines with you to catch up on your reading. Or grab that handy bill-paying tote, and write out checks while you wait. Also, if you spend too much time driving back and forth, consider carpooling or staying at the practices or park district classes. Always have a small notebook and pen in your purse or car. You can use extra time to jot down lists for shopping or tomorrow’s errands.
  • Use driving time wisely—Although it is not safe to do too much of anything else while driving, there are a few things which can be done if caution is taken. For example, put in an audio tape of a book you’ve been meaning to read. Or make that quick call (hands free of course) to your sister about the upcoming menu for the barbecue she’s hosting. Keep a small tape recorder in the glove compartment to dictate notes to yourself. Just remember that driving is your priority.


  • Invest in a hands-free accessory for your phone—So much can be done while on the phone, especially if it is a social call. Your free hands can be washing dishes, clipping coupons, or brushing the dog. And the accessory will also be easier on your neck. Just remember not to do anything which may be inconsiderate, such as loud background noises (vacuuming), eating, or concentrating so hard on the second task that you don’t pay attention to the caller. Also, I do not advise doing this while on a business call. You need to focus while conducting business. Give the caller your full attention. ·
  • The television is your friend—We all have our favorite programs we like to watch. You may tape them to watch them at your convenience, or sit down to watch them while they are on. Either way, use the time to do something else. Fold the laundry, pay bills, or clip articles and recipes from magazines. Television may be your down time, but if there is something that can be done, go ahead and do it.
  • Technology is your friend—This can be any form of electronics, from the computer to a CD player. Put on those headphones while vacuuming, and listen to a taped lecture or audio book. Do a search for that new medication on your computer while stirring the pasta for dinner. Download photos from your digital camera while washing dishes. There is always some quick little task that can be done while waiting for the computer to turn on or download a page.


  • Get children on the same schedule—While it is impossible to get everyone in the household on the exact same schedule with all the work, school and extra-curricular activities, get as many as you can together. Have the younger ones nap at the same time. If your daughter has to eat early because of soccer practice, have dinner ready early for everyone. If your son needs his baseball uniform washed, throw in other laundry at the same time. If you are making lunches for your children in the evenings, throw something together for yourself and your husband also. That will mean less trips to the fridge, and all the lunch bags will be ready to grab in the morning.
  • Get cooperation from others—You can’t do this alone. Even children as young as five can learn do help out around the house. For example, if you’re gathering up laundry while talking on the phone, have your little ones go around the house looking for random socks under the sofas and beds. If you are clipping coupons, have your older children sort them into piles according to food groups. If you are vacuuming, have your son help move the furniture for you. If your husband needs his suit cleaned for a business trip, give him those sleeping bags to take along for laundering also. Instill in your family that the more they help you out, the more free time you will have with them as a result.

So the next time you pick up the car keys, grab the checkbook, or start filling the laundry basket, ask yourself if there is something else you can be doing at the same time. Just use caution in trying to do too much at once, or not being able to focus enough to do things well.


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