Why I’m Not a Multitasking Momma

Is it possible to stop multitasking and get more done? Well, as a work-at-home mom with two preschoolers, this may come as a shock to you but —

I don’t believe in multitasking!

Insanity, right? But as a mom and as an efficiency strategist, I want to share with you why I think we need to stop seeing “ability to multitask” as a strength, because frankly…

Multitasking is impossible.

When you think of multitasking as more than just “chewing gum and walking at the same time”, you’ll quickly realize it’s not actually multitasking at all, but task-switching. And when you’re asking your brain to CONSTANTLY switch gears, it’s no wonder you’re exhausted all the time and feel like you’re getting nothing accomplished.

There are certainly times in which you can do two tasks at one time – checking e-mail while jogging on the treadmill, for example – but even that only goes so far. If you had an important e-mail to write out, you’d almost certainly wait until you were done exercising. It’s the same reason you turn down your radio when you’re driving and think you may be lost; your brain can only stretch so far when attempting to do more than one thing at a time.

Multitasking is not efficient.

It’s also important to note that multitasking is also incredibly inefficient; the more you try to “multitask”, the more apt you are to make mistakes.

How many times have you accidentally used baking powder instead of baking soda because you were trying to make muffins while checking your child’s homework and also writing out a grocery list? Or how many times have you misplaced your keys because as you come into the house you’ve suddenly got three people wanting ten different things? It’s not just the stress that makes you feel frazzled, but it’s your inability to break the multitasking habit.

Speaking of stress, though…

Multitasking is stressful!

Multitasking stresses you out, not just from the mistakes you made, but also going back to one of my original points: you’re exhausting yourself and your brain.

When you try to multitask, you use up what’s called your “working memory”, your auditory and visual-spatial memory. Because of this, you’re basically bottlenecking your thought processes, but rather than filtering them through one at a time, you’re trying to jam them through all at once – hence the stress.

Along those same lines, just as you’re more apt to make mistakes, you’re more apt to inadvertently ignore other things going around you when you try to multitask.

For example, I originally fleshed out this idea of banning multitasking while on a walk with my son. Do you remember the viral video a few years ago about counting basketballs and in the middle of it, a gorilla walked by and almost all of us missed it? It’s because our brains were so focused on the basketballs that we missed the “beauty” of the gorilla.

So likewise, when you’re looking down at your phone while waiting for a bus, you may miss the love of your life walk by. Or maybe you’re watching TV while reading this post, and you’re losing out not only on some productivity tips, but you’re wasting your time by even trying to process what it is I’ve written.

Should we stop multitasking altogether?

Despite everything I’ve said, I don’t mean that you should stop multitasking all together, because let’s face it – there are times when multitasking is a MUST (whether we like or not!)

Take this morning, for example:

Kids woke up when I did at 7am and I offered them 30 minutes of “tablet time” in exchange for the freedom to knock out a few e-mails to my clients.

They agreed to it…until 7:10am when I heard “MOMMMMM! I’m STARRRRRVING!” (This comes from my oh-so-dramatic 4 year old son.)

“Okay, bud,” I responded, “Do you want some cereal?”

“Hmmmmmm….how about french toast?” he said with his signature charming smile.

“No,” the 3 year old piped in, “Pancakes!”

Oy…

So now instead of writing that email, I had to settle a debate between the children regarding which kind of breakfast bread they wished to consume.

(Spoiler: We settled on french toast with the promise of pancakes tomorrow.)

brown hair toddler reading a book
My daughter doesn’t take my multitasking advice; she prefers a bit of light reading with her breakfast…

And of course as I started to make french toast, I realized I should also feed the dog and the cat. Oh and finish up some dishes. Oh and see if dinner requires any early prep work today. Oh and….

My e-mails!!

So rather than trying to juggle it all at once, I took a breath, grabbed my headphones, and used voice-to-text to map them out while the smell of butter and cinnamon filled the early morning air.

And as I was talking out my e-mails over the sound of egg-battered bread hitting the skillet, I found myself smiling. Because even though life is often a bit chaotic, it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted.

I’m my own boss (if we don’t count those two little ones who call me “mom”) and I get to spend my days not only living out my own dreams, but helping others do the same. All at my own pace, by my own choosing.

So do we multitask…or no?

If you’re like I was a few months ago, maybe the thought of not multitasking has never even crossed your mind. Or maybe you read this post and thought “DON’T multitask? HA! Yeah right…” But why not give it a shot?

I challenge you to try going just ONE day — it’s only 24 hours! — without multitasking. Meaning no podcast playing while you drive to work. No Facebook scrolling in the bathroom (gross). No folding laundry while watching TV. Only single-tasking allowed!

I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how difficult it is. Our brains have been trained to want to multitask, no matter how harmful it may be to do so. It’s like when you try to quit sugar – you don’t realize just how addicted you are to it until you try to stop.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a toddler eager to serve me some play-doh cupcakes. 😉

blonde toddler holding playdoh

Oh but before I go – what do you think…

Will you try to quit multitasking for a day? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

How to stop multitasking and get more done! Multitasking does more harm than good and even though it's surprisingly addictive, it's time to be more productive. #multitasking #productivity #wahm #focus #efficiency #bloggers

9 Comments

  • Carol Cassara Reply

    I was really good at it when I was a younger woman but now? Can not do. Can not. And do not want to!

  • Em Linthorpe Reply

    I’ve never even thought to try this but I love your idea and your reasoning behind it. We do multitask without realising it. I will be making a conscious effort to note when I am doing it, and see if making changes will help me see and appreciate the bigger picture 🙂

  • Laurie Stone Reply

    Love this so much and its something I’ve always suspected. Focusing seems much more efficient than the scattershot approach. Thank you for the reinforcement!

  • Linda Hobden Reply

    Eek… you are a taskmaster Amber! I’m not sure I can stop multi tasking! Interesting theory though. Life would be smoother single tasking but would we really get things done?!

  • Monica Matthews, aka Scholarship Mom Reply

    I tell myself that I need to stop multi tasking ALL THE TIME. When I start to do more than one thing at a time I start repeating in my head, “finish one thing before you start another” (!!!!!!!!!!) You bring up some great points in this post!

  • Chris Reply

    Guilty – way over do it on the multitasking. And always bouncing from one task to another. But sometimes I use multitasking to sneak in a little me time in a busy schedule – which I suppose just makes me even more busy. 🙂

  • Molly Stevens Reply

    I’ve actually been working on this, Amber, because I’ve been feeling anxious and stressed. I notice when I read blog posts or emails while watching TV my chest gets tight and my head feels like it has a rubber band around it. When I stop and do one thing, I’m able to relax and enjoy what I am doing. It has become an epidemic with portable electronic devices and I hope the trend shifts so we can take a collective deep breath and experience the present moment.

  • klaudia Reply

    I think , it is all gentic. We women just can’t help it, I used to be proud of how good I am in multi-tasking. Today it is just tiring, stressing me out, and very unproducitve! You are spot on right, it is multi – switching and getting actually not much done after all. Maybe that for my health issues are slowing me down now? An omen? I know, if I overdo things, I will end up in insane pain. So, I have to delegate and spread things over the week. Taking things easier and slower still hasn’t stopped me from multi-hopping , though. Some people suffer from restless legs, I have got some kind of restless syndrome in the head , I think. LOL.

Comments make me smile!