09 April 2006

The myth of multitasking

I often find myself multitasking -- running between three or four unfinished projects trying to get them done at the same time. I like to think I'm making efficient use of my time, but it rarely turns out well. I drop one of the plates I'm spinning, or I snap at my kids. None of us ends up happy.

I'm now making an effort (within reason) to do one thing at a time. If I'm playing with the kids, I'm playing. Not playing while folding laundry, or playing while sorting toys, or playing while cleaning up (or, God forbid, playing while blogging). I feel antsy at times, but generally I'm more at ease throughout the day. My kids appreciate having my full attention, and I can just relax and have a good time with them.

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I should take a page from your book of wisdom. I'm so into multi-tasking that it's hard for me to just focus on one thing. But it does sound beneficial for me and my boys.

I have been dipping my toe into the waters of GTD, Getting Things Done, which is a time management system developed by David Allen. I find it, at least initially, to be brilliant. One example, as a teaser, is The Two Minute Rule. The rule is: when you discover something that needs doing, guesstimate how long the task will take. If the estimate is two minutes or less, do the task immediately. If this seems intriguing, do what I did and read the wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gtd

i notice that if i try to do other things while playing with my 7-year-old she'll keep working harder and harder to get and keep my attention, and she' won't leave me be until she feels she's gotten it.

this makes whatever other task(s) i'm trying to get done harder and harder to accomplish.

however, if i focus on just playing for 30 minutes to an hour, she'll often freely release me of my fatherly duties so that she can go entertain herself for a while.

whether that means i've done my job or i've bored he away, i'm not sure... ;)

Here's a PH post on David Allen's "Getting Things Done" --

http://www.parenthacks.com/2006/01/david_allen_hel.html

My take on the GTD system, plus a link to the book at Amazon (you should also be able to find it at your local bookstore; it's available everywhere.)

Multitasking is definately for the birds, so to speak! I had to find out the hard way by experiencing depression. It's way too stressful to try and accomplish a few things at one time and do it well, or by my standards. What I have learned is that if I must multitask, and it's rare, I will combine only one high focus task with one that is completely brainless. For example, folding the clothes while talking on the phone with a friend. You can be more efficient when you are not emotionally stretched.

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