To do two things at once, is to do neither.

When I had my first baby, I started watching The Today Show with Katie Couric.  She was the only news person I quite liked on all the morning shows.  She knew the right questions to ask, made people feel comfortable and just seemed to be someone you could identify with- she was good at genuine.  News casters have a hard time with that personal connection- a tough balance to try and be issue-neutral, report the news without bias and also to get their audience to like them.  Katie knew how to do it- she was brilliant.  However, I have not liked her so much as an anchor- and I think she recognizes it is not her strength.  I knew before she became an anchor, as whenever I would see her host a late night, news show, she all of a sudden seemed stiff and awkward.  I guess you can’t have it all.

So I was watching the Today Show, many years back and they had a psychologist on the show.  She was talking about stress and time management within women’s lives.   She made a statement that surprised me and has stuck with me ever since.  She said that often women and mom’s are proud of the fact that they can multi-task.  But that actually, multi-tasking is BAD.  Rather, one should focus on completing tasks before moving on to the other.  The brain likes to complete tasks and it helps the brain become stronger.

I found an article online with this information:

Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

What we can do, he said, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed.

“Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” Miller said.

“You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”

Miller said there are several reasons the brain has to switch among tasks. One is that similar tasks compete to use the same part of the brain.

“Think about writing an e-mail and talking on the phone at the same time. Those things are nearly impossible to do at the same time,” he said.

“You cannot focus on one while doing the other. That’s because of what’s called interference between the two tasks,” Miller said. “They both involve communicating via speech or the written word, and so there’s a lot of conflict between the two of them.”

My 60 year old aunt once told me that she has a harder time reading, than she did when she was younger.  She said it was harder for her to sit down and focus.   I thought that very strange and tried to wonder why.

Now watch this three minute video:

Scary huh!  I think most moms who see this video, will identify just a bit with this woman.  I find myself having so many things to do, starting something here, than realizing I need to do this other thing, etc. etc.  And the very most difficult part:  interruptions from children.  This is what causes my “ADD.”  In fact, this woman’s ADD was labeled as “age induced”- but what about the “children induced” diagnosis?

It’s so true.  Mom’s have lots of time at home, but very little uninterrupted time- a block of sweet concentration that they don’t have to change a diaper, fix lunch, clean-up the goldfish crumbs on the floor, read a story, find a band-aid, answer a question, answer another question, than another.  In fact, in trying to type this post, I have already been interrupted five times.  The boys wanted to play a computer game, Kaite wanted to go to the rec center with friends, Jack needed to do the dishes, babies waking from naps, etc. etc.  It’s hard to get back into my train of thought and to even really think.  It’s annoying too.  My brain doesn’t like it.

And I’m behind on this blog.  It’s summer, the kids are home 24/7 and there’s so much fun in the sun.  Any free time I have is spent catching up on bills and emails or reading or watching BBC Victorian dramacomedies (Larkspur to Candleford).  And anyways I never feel like thinking when I’m sunburned.

Years of this add up.  I’ve been more aware of this lately as I try to get through the pile of tasks that are mine.  I have to really focus on going  from A to B to C and not starting something else before I finish the original task.  Otherwise, I run in circles like the woman from the video and don’t get much done- though I flap my wings a lot.

The fastest way from point A to B is a straight line

And I’m talking simple things here too.  Like waking in the morning and wanting to start a load of laundry, so I get out the clothes, but than I see that one of Addy’s shirts needs to be mended, so I get out the thread, but then Eli wakes up and I get some cereal for him.. what was I doing?  Oh, yeah, the laundry.  I go to put it in, but then realize that Eli has spilled milk on the floor, put the laundry bag down and wipe up the floor.  Eww- the floor is really dirty.  I should sweep it.  So I go to sweep it, but then Jack and Kaite get in an argument that I have to go moderate.  I do my best at that, and return to… what was I doing?  Then I see the camera lying on the table and think “I need to get those pictures in the computer so I can put them in the album”.  I turn on the computer and instead of downloading the images, I check email and respond to some facebook message.  I am just about done with the message, but before I send it, Addy comes in and asks me to do her hair.  So I put braids in and see the laundry basket on the floor next to the machine and realize I haven’t put the laundry in yet….

Yep.  Not cool.  I can do better.  So I’m trying to push through with each of my tasks.  Get one thing done before I go on to the next.

I just got back from making dinner and desert (is my house the only place where we still have desert every day??)  And I was thinking.  How in the world can I really not multi-task?  There are so many things happening at once, all the time, in this household. (just a minute, Addy wants to show me her castle)…. OK.  I’m back.  So…. Um, yeah.  Really, how do I better this situation?  Lots to do, lots of interruptions.

This is what I made... ooolala

I guess it comes down to mental awareness.  Being aware that I need to follow through on tasks, focus on a few at a time, finish before starting another.  Another “duh” answer, but there’s power in the basics.

I just don’t want to go crazy.  Interesting though, I never have a problem completing a desert.

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9 Responses to Circles

  1. Lisa says:

    Love it. That is my life. One of my 2011 mottos is “Be present”. It reminds me to focus on who I am with and let other things fall aside. And, now I’ve been interrupted and must go. Great post.

  2. Jaclyn says:

    Ever since mom sent us that video I have been much more concious of how much I am like that lady (though my ADD at this time is also kid induced) and have also made a more concentrated effort to finish the task at hand before moving on to the next. That really is easier said than done though!

  3. Jaclyn says:

    PS- yes, you really are the only one that makes desert every night. I didn’t know anyone did that.

  4. lynnley says:

    Lisa- what I love about you is that you are “present”.

    Jaclyn- in response to your PS- I do what my passion dictates (yes, it counts)

  5. I haven’t watched the video yet but I loved your post. I also love the pic of your decadent dessert…post the recipe please!! Oh and it took me 4 visits to your site to actually read your post without being interrupted!! (It is 6:30 in the morning right now so everyone is asleep 🙂

  6. carrie says:

    I like the “be present” motto, and I think making and sticking to a list would help me get more done in the day. But I start the list and inevitably get distracted before finishing it.

  7. lynnley says:

    Karina- you really have to watch the video, cause it will make you think- and maybe a little scared.

    Carrie- do you think Obama makes lists? Yep, probably every day of his life.

  8. lynnley says:

    How many women DON’T actually identify with ADD? I think my kids aggravate it, but I must admit it has always been there. In my mind I’m always thinking about the next thing and what needs to be done so the comment of being present and actually focusing on who you are with in the moment would be a good one to practice. I’d say you do that well Lyn, almost as well as you make desserts. In fact those two things are two of my favorite things about you and the brownies were as delicious as they looked!

  9. Jenna says:

    Oops, I guess I’m Lynley now that I’m logged into your computer, but just so the rest of the blogosphere knows, that last comment was made by Jenna, the sister who keeps extending her stay.

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