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.


Bumblebee and sedum

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, perhaps having them help you with simple tasks, talking with them, or just enjoying your togetherness… without feeling you must do something else at the same time… you will find that quality time will just happen on its own.

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Comments

Anita

AMEN!!!! You have such a great way of getting to the heart of the matter. What you have said is so true!! Thanks for your great blog.

Penny

Very true, and well written. I’ve gotten so bad about multi-tasking. I mean, like you said, sometimes it’s necessary. But when you get so busy that you feel like you have to do more than one thing at once just to get it all done…maybe it’s time to simplify more than just how many tasks you do at once!

momzoo

I am a firm believer in Quantity time=Quality time.

Ruth, PA

Life is so short. The best gift we can ever give someone is our time…undivided time and attention! Thanks for a great reminder!
Ruth, PA

Kimmie

Excellent article!! I especially agree with you re quality time and quantity time. You can’t create quality time on a schedule, the best quality time happens without planning it.

CrossView

You hit the nail right on the head!
My days are no longer as “productive” as they used to be, but thankfully my kids and my husband get my full attention. And that makes the relationships so much fuller~ And the other stuff? It’s always still there.

Fiona

Very true. I often pile so much on my plate I get overwhelmed and procrastinate.
If I just concentrate – one step at a time, I’m sure I’d get things done with less fuss and to a higher standard.

Donna

Thank you so much for your post. I have never been a multitasking person, at least not effectively! So this just encouraged me that it’s okay. I was so relieved and even told my adult children and my parents that we are all excused from multitasking! (They were pleased, as well.) I do so much better when I can focus on one thing, and even though it seems that I don’t get as much accomplished as some other people, I know that when I try to do so much at once, nothing gets done well anyway. I also enjoyed spending quantity/quality time with my children as they were growing up and know that nothing can replace quantity. Thanks again for your encouraging word!

Mary

Glad to read your view on multi-tasking. I have a dear friend who also calls while cleaning her house, or doing her dishes, or whatever. This is a very annoying habit, however, she also puts me on speaker phone to free up her hands, not normally a problem except when I get a comment from someone else in the room that I did not know I was speaking to. When I initiate a phone call I set that time aside for that call. Glad to know I am not the only one who sees this as distracting (also not crazy about call waiting). Love your website!!

Bianca D

Well said! I agree wholeheartedly.
Thank you.

Gillie

I made a conscious decision not to multitask (unless absolutely necessary or I am on hold on the phone waiting to be put through to a call centre in Delhi for several hours). If I am going upstairs to meditate for example I will not take the pile of clean washing up but come down and get it after meditation is over. I am far more productive now, have more free time and am less stressed. What’s not to like?