My son is a lot like his Momma. He’s friendly. He’s chatty. He loves to read. But he’s like me in other ways, too—including equating success to productivity instead of quality.
It’s an easy habit to fall into both as an adult and as a child. As moms, our to-do lists are usually more full than they are crossed off. So multi-tasking often becomes as much about sanity prevention as it is getting stuff done. And ask any kid. Most will tell you that it’s better—way better—to get a lot of homework done than it is to really take your time and do it well.
It’s a habit that’s fostered by the society we live in too. The phones in our pocket are engineered to do a wide variety of things, all simultaneously, and most if not all of us have a microwave for those instances when waiting more than a minute or so to cook or heat something up just isn’t an option. Seriously. In a lot of ways, we’ve been programmed to think that if we’re not multi-tasking, we’re not working hard enough, being efficient enough or simply not being as successful as we potentially could be.
But stop for a second. Put whatever else you’re currently doing down for a second and give this next sentence a little more thought: We’re human beings, not human doings. When was the last time you really took the time to focus on one task completely? We weren’t just created to do lots of things. We were created to be creative, to have relationships, to problem solve and live. Many of these things take time—lots of time. And aren’t these the kind of things worth our best efforts and all of our focus?
In an effort to help my son (and myself) be a bit more counter-cultural when it comes to multi-tasking all the time, I’ve come up with a few tips and ideas. Here I share them with you as well in the hopes that we all can reclaim the lost art of single-tasking too:
It’s okay to not say “yes” to everything.
We are limited beings with a finite amount of time, energy and resources. Accepting this is not only okay, it’s essential. To live as if we’re capable of doing everything all the time is only cheating ourselves out of truly living, really being present in every moment.
Purpose to appreciate a new definition of success.
Sure getting stuff done feels good. But doing the best job you can possibly do feels even better. Learn to take pride in quality, not just quantity. Our priorities can often be identified by how we spend our time. Are you whizzing through more important things in order to complete more, less important tasks?
Understand that single-tasking isn’t about being lazy. It’s about being responsible.
We’re called to be good stewards of all our resources, time included. But our talents, efforts and creativity are vital resources, too. Single-tasking doesn’t have to be about getting less done. When we give ourselves permission to fully focus on one thing at a time, often we can do a better job more quickly and then move on to the next task ahead.