Multitasking is my middle name.
I am a single parent (with many young children) and a business owner. Multitasking is my middle name! As a work-at-home-mom, I am multitasking on a regular basis. Between kids and clients, I’m constantly switching between tasks, and even doing several things at once continually.
Naturally learned skill
I think most parents can relate to this. Multitasking is a natural, or at least quickly learned, “mom skill”. Like eyes in the back of your head, supersonic hearing and that 6th sense that knows instantly when the baby is about to get into the cleaning cupboard, the ability to multitask comes with having children, especially when you have more than one child.
But like any skill, there are ways to improve and do it better. I’ve been a work-at-home mom for 10 years now, and I have several children. Over the years of experience, there are things I’ve learned that have helped me both focus better and do more things — mostly because I’ve had to! Necessity is a wonderful teacher.
The first thing I’ve learned is to focus quickly, and to switch focus quickly. Crying babies make great alarm clocks! When you know you’ve only got an hour before junior is awake from his nap, you don’t waste time on the mindless distractions (like Facebook!!) If I’ve got my kids settled with a game or toy, I know I’ve only got a limited amount of time to GTD, so I have trained myself to switch over quickly into the task at hand, and complete it, without wandering into rabbit trails or daydreams.
It helps to have a list of things to do handy. I spend at least one day a week planning out my week. I list all my to-dos, in categories, and with the approximate time it will take to complete them. The planning I do saves me a lot of time later on, when time is a premium I don’t want to waste.
Match up the tasks
Another thing I learned is to match up my tasks. It’s very hard to wash dishes and type up blog posts at the same time. But I can wash dishes and listen to a podcast on time management, SEO, niche marketing or another topic of interest to me at the same time. Washing dishes is a relatively mindless task, so I can devote my concentration to something else while I’m doing the chore.
Match up the mindless tasks with those that need more concentration. Also, pay attention to where you are. You can’t sit at the computer and vacuum the carpet at the same time. Match up the tasks that require you to be mobile, and the ones that you can do while you’re sitting down.
“Bookmark” your place
No matter how well you are getting things done, when you must multitask, expect frequent interruptions. It does no good to get frustrated at the interruptions, because that will simply get you distracted. It helps to leave milestone markers to remind yourself what you were doing. Keep a pen nearby, have bookmarks handy, and check your lists constantly. Use keywords or phrases to jog your memory when you leave a task, so that when you come back to it, you’ll know where you left off.
Way of Life
Multitasking is a way of life for me. I’m a single WAHM of young children. I know no other way to get everything done that I need to do. I rely heavily on my lists and plans, on my tools and helps to keep me focused, despite regular interruptions. In truth, I always have a pen on me, and I think my smartphone is glued to my hand sometimes, but it’s fun. I love the feeling of productivity I have at the end of the day, and the only way I get it all done is to multitask.