Multi-tasking that works!

IMG_0611People who say they are successful multi-taskers are liars. That’s a pretty bold statement from someone who has yet to make the acquaintance of every self-proclaimed multi-tasker but I believe and there is research to back me up that the brain and body can not perform multiple functions well simultaneously. The emphasis is on the word “well.” Yes, you can walk and chew gum, talk on the phone and fold laundry, read a magazine and pet the dog at the same time but these are not activities that require the same active brain function.

However, my version of multitasking is to use those precious, usually wasted, minutes of the day for maximum advantage. This one is my favorite: emptying the dishwasher while waiting for water to boil or something to heat up in the microwave. Ask me to empty the dishwasher and my mind assumes this task will take hours, cause massive muscle fatigue, and leave me drained for the rest of the day. Clearly, I hate emptying the dishwasher. But when it is broken down into a 2 minute time frame, it is much more manageable. Usually I’m not finished in the allotted time but I’ve gotten so close to completion that I don’t mind finishing it.

Think of the little tasks you hate doing, the ones that add up over time to become both Herculean and Sisyphean: folding laundry, going through mail, ironing clothes, taking out the trash, making grocery lists for efficient shopping trips, sweeping or vacuuming the floor, making the bed, and so forth. Individually, these don’t seem like major tasks but when you don’t do them over time they create serious problems. Now try to find a minute or two in the day while waiting for or doing something else that can make the task more bearable. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Fold laundry while talking to a friend on the phone.
  2. Go through mail, at least get rid of the junk, on the walk back from the mailbox. Don’t let junk mail enter your home!
  3. Iron some clothes while watching a TV show or movie.
  4. Take out the trash during a commercial break. Commercial breaks while watching a show or game are perfect time fillers. You’ve got 2-3 minutes to get some major things done and you’ve got a built in reward when you return
  5. Make your smart grocery list while waiting for water to boil. I live with an iced tea drinker so this is a fairly common occurence.
  6. Sweep the floor for the duration of one song.  Vacuuming is a little harder because you can’t hear anything while it’s on but starting with one room and seeing the great results is perfect motivation to keep going.
  7. Make the bed during a radio commercial or while you are brushing your teeth. I usually walk around while brushing anyway and it doesn’t hurt to brush longer….just don’t spill. 🙂

So the trick is to find those small pockets of time available during your day to get annoying tasks done. You’ll amaze yourself at what you can get done in 60 seconds and with that momentum you can accomplish so much more. This technique is great with kids, too. You can do anything for a minute or two, especially if you make it a challenge for yourself or them.

What tasks can you get done in one minute? Three minute commercial break? I’d love to hear your ideas or comments below.