I have a friend who almost never telephones me unless she is doing something else at the same time. Sometimes she’s preparing or eating dinner, sometimes she’s driving somewhere, sometimes she’s doing housework, and sometimes she’s washing dishes. Often she becomes so preoccupied with the other thing she is doing that she forgets what she is saying or what I have answered, and the sounds of chewing, traffic, running water, or clanging dishes are very distracting. This woman is a good friend and I’m very fond of her, but I wish just once she would devote her full attention to the conversation she has initiated. I doubt that this will ever happen, though, because she is very much into multitasking. And she’s always feeling frazzled and in a rush.
Although we all multitask sometimes because we have to… like getting dinner while holding a fussy baby… the recent trend to deliberately plan to do more than one task at the same time is, I think, part of the reason why so many people feel pushed beyond their limits. I like the quote from the Roman philosopher Publilius Syrus, “To do two things at once is to do neither.” When you’re trying to do a bit of this and a bit of that and trying to keep everything together and organized in your mind at the same time, you’re unnecessarily complicating your life.
Think about it. In the same way that multitasking prevents you from giving your full attention to any single thing, trying to do several things at once also robs you of the pride in accomplishment and enjoyment that you could derive from each job individually well done. And if you’re skeptical that there is pleasure to be found in such things, try devoting yourself to one small project and just let yourself BE in the moment of what you are doing. Not only will you do a better job, you will probably also finish it more quickly. Make being in the moment a habit and your life WILL change.
Many parents talk about planning quality time. I’m a firm believer that you can’t make quality time happen by writing it into a schedule… I believe quality time occurs naturally as a direct result of the quantity time you spend with your children doing the ordinary things that make up your lives. If most of your interactions with your children are when you are multitasking, with your mind always busy on several other things, both you and your children are losing something irreplaceable. But when you regularly spend time with your children, talking with them, perhaps having them help you with simple tasks, or just enjoying your togetherness… without trying to do anything else at the same time… you will find that quality time will just happen on its own.