Last week I made coffee without putting the pod in the coffee machine. I mean, really (!), the absolute simplest way to make coffee – put the pod in and press a button – and I messed it up. Why?
I was multitasking, that’s why. I was trying to make breakfast for the kids, plan out my week, check the weather (big snowstorm on the way) and get myself to the dentist on time. It’s only 7:45 on a Saturday morning and I was already exhausted from trying to do so many things at the same time. I wanted to crawl back into bed and hibernate. Unfortunately, if you read my last post, you’ll know that is impossible with my 2 kids who have an inner clock set to 5:30 am.
While I was trying comprehend why my coffee looked like water, I heard my five-year old say “uh oh!” I looked and discovered he had dripped milk on the floor. Being the good kid that he is, he got a towel and tried to wipe it up. But the more he wiped it up, the more he spilled. Sadly, I realized that he was multitasking too. He was still trying to drink his milk with one hand and clean up the mess with the other. And he learned it from me!
There is not a lot of research that shows that multitasking is beneficial. Most of what you find will say that, for short-term, it’s fine. But in the long run, it’s more harmful to your health and to your memory than most of us realize. In fact, multitasking can actually cause more stress, make it harder to focus, make you unhappy and less productive.
When I think about it, life has changed drastically in the last 15 – 20 years with cellphones and personal computers. Especially with smartphones that allow us to be in constant contact with the rest of the world. It has become increasingly harder and harder to pull ourselves away from text messages, emails, and social media. Look away from your phone or computer now and look at the people around you (unless you’re sitting in a room all by yourself, that is). How many people have a cell phone in their hand? How many of them are looking at their phone and walking, or eating, or talking to someone standing next to them, or ordering a cup of coffee? That is multitasking! What about when you are watching tv? Are you checking your emails on your phone or computer? texting someone? scoping out Facebook? Do you even remember when people only had a landline in their house and that was it?
I’m guilty too, it’s a big part of why I’m frazzled all the time. After thinking about this during the week, I realized that often I am trying to do two or more things at the same time. I make breakfast, pack lunches and try to get the kids up and dressed all at the same time. During my lunch hour at work I am eating, making copies, setting up for the afternoon classes, etc. I cook dinner, check the kids’ backpacks and email at the same time. Starting the Chore Chart has definitely helped with the getting things done in the morning (check out my last post about the Chore Chart below). Think about it though. How is this affecting our children? What are we teaching them? That you can drink your milk the same time you are trying to clean up what you spilled? You’re just going to spill more.
Now Google “A day without cellphones” and you’ll see dozens of articles and stories about people who have given up their phone for a day. The results range from a couple of people barely surviving 24 hours to quite a few rediscovering the world around them. In my search, I discovered that there is actually a National Day of Unplugging, started by Reboot, a non-profit affirming the value of Jewish traditions and creating new ways for people to make them their own. We missed the National Day of Unplugging (it was on March 3-4, 2017) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t give it a go on our own, right?
So now, I ask you… can you do it? Can you go a whole day without your phone and computer? Pick a day that you will not need either for work. Make this a day to focus on one task at a time. Start with that cup of coffee in the morning. Sit down at the table and enjoy that cup of coffee, down to the last drop. Just let your mind wander as you do so. Were you able to do it? Great!!! Now, on to the next task, one item at a time….