Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I am not a multi-tasker

It's taken me 30 years to figure that out. A couple of months ago it finally all clicked and it was such a revelation! When I told Eric about my discovery, he was unimpressed. "I've always known that about you," he said. I wish he had told me!

I've always thought I was a multi-tasker. For example, in college I maintained a high GPA in a difficult major with a tough course load while working part time, doing on an undergraduate research project, volunteering at church on the RCIA team and planning my wedding. I had a bunch of plates spinning and I squeezed every ounce of productivity out of every day to keep them all from falling. If that wasn't multi-tasking then I didn't know what was.

But, it wasn't. I worked on each of those obligations individually. Each one had time set aside for it during certain parts of the day. During a task's scheduled time, I attacked it ferociously. I was very focused, worked very hard, and loved checking things off my task list. I did things one at a time, in the quiet, with few interruptions.

Obviously, moms rarely get to do things "one at a time, in the quiet, with few interruptions."

I've always thought I was a horrible housekeeper. In reality, it's just that I'm a lousy multi-tasker. I'm either caring for the kids or I'm caring for the house. I find it very difficult to do both at the same time. I can only operate by giving 100% of my attention to one thing.

If I'm carrying the baby around because he's fussy and wants my attention (Gustin really is high maintenance so it happens a lot), then that's all I do, for hours at a time. It does not occur to me that I could throw a load of laundry in the washing machine or unload the dishwasher while I'm holding him. He really doesn't need 100% of my attention, he just needs me to be close to him. But, I don't realize it at the time. Then I get to the end of the day and I feel frustrated because nothing has gotten done. Then I get down on myself, etc., etc.

I tried forcing myself to multi-task for awhile. I found it absolutely exhausting. And, at the end of the day, I really didn't have much more accomplished around the house to show for it. I would end up flitting around the house all day long, picking up something here, putting away something there, starting a bigger task, getting interrupted, starting a different bigger task, etc. And, the kids would be grumpier because I hadn't actually stopped and looked them in the eyes while they were speaking to me once during the entire day.

There is a point to this post. The point is that I've finally discovered how I work and I've been able to implement some changes to make my household run better.

I now set aside about an hour and a half every Saturday morning to work on housework. Alone. As in, no kids interrupting me. Eric takes all three kids and leaves the house. I then turn on some music and get to work. I can focus. I can start a task and finish it. I get so much done! I feel so much better about myself and our home feels much more ordered (it's still far from perfect order, but it is so much better!).

This change has required some sacrifices. Eric now mows the lawn on a weekday evening instead of Saturday morning. He also has had to give up some of his time on Saturday for his woodworking hobby. And, he has to find a way to entertain three small children every Saturday morning. That's why I keep my housekeeping time to no more than an hour and a half. That's about as long as Eric can keep the kids busy without going nuts himself.

I still have some tweaking to do to this schedule. Traveling out of town on weekends really messes things up. I would try to do some in the evenings, but Gustin is very difficult at that time and usually requires my full attention until we finally all crash around 10:30 at night.

But, it feels so good to be finally heading in the right direction!

1 comment:

Blair said...

That's a great epiphany, Colleen! I'm totally a multi-tasker so I seem to do everything halfway. I wish I could stick to a project and finish it well. But other things are always grabbing my attention!