The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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The Art (?) Of Multi-Tasking

on June 1, 2012

ImageI’ve discovered that there is a thin line, a VERY THIN line, between multi-tasking and ADD. I discovered it one morning when I tried to dump my breakfast in the crock pot and put peanut butter on a roast.  I’d like to blame it on my children distracting me, but I was alone in the kitchen at the time. In that moment it occurred to me that I was either losing it all together or I was trying to do too many things at once.

 I love the television show M*A*S*H. (Hang with me…this is going to make sense eventually.) I have most of them memorized because I’ve watched it so much.  One of my favorite episodes is when they introduce the character of Charles to the show.  Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III is a snooty surgeon from Boston who thinks he has been sent to the Mobile Hospital to help for a short period.  He comes in with all sorts of attitude and believes himself to be much better than the other doctors.  As he comes out of his first surgical session, where he has saved the life of a soldier doing a tricky heart procedure that the other doctors weren’t trained to do, he says to them,  “Gentlemen, I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.”  Ah to have that luxury!

 I’m a mom.  Multi-tasking is part of the job description.  I’m a church secretary. It’s part of that job description also.  Thankfully I’m wired to multi-task or I’d be a basket case by now.  I think in “groups” of tasks.  For example: “Ok – I can throw this load of laundry in then stick the brownies in the oven. They bake for 20 minutes so I can run the vacuum and switch laundry loads before the timer goes off.”  Or “If I start the bulletins printing I can run the attendance sheets off the other printer and get them ready before I have to fold the bulletins.”  It usually works fairly well for me until I let the Multi-Task-Maniac (MTM for short)  take over.

 The MTM can get out of control in a big old hurry.  I have a tendency to think I can accomplish more in a given time period than can humanly be done. When I don’t have my tasks completed within the time I set  I get frustrated with myself because I’m behind “schedule.”   Of course the only person who knows the schedule is me, and I could adjust it, but I never think of that in the middle of my frustration.  That frustration can lap over on occasion to anyone unfortunate enough (usually my kids) to interrupt me when I’m in the middle of my multiple tasks.  Can’t they see that they are putting me behind schedule?  What is wrong with these people?? I have tasks to accomplish!  You called me for that? What?? Part of my job is to answer the phone? Are you kidding? Ok, side note and reality check: most women can talk on the phone and do ANYTHING. Unless of course you are on a corded phone which restricts your movements.  This is the case at my place of employment and is why some days the phone just BUGS me.   You see,  the MTM forgets that people are more important than the check-list. (Stunning – I know!)

 The MTM also has the tendency to move on through the task list too quickly and get confused. (ala peanut butter roast.)  When one’s mind is six steps ahead of one’s body it causes one to have to stop and review. “Wait. Did I put detergent in the washing machine when I turned it on?”  “Did I remember to lock the door when I left?” It’s kind of like going into auto-pilot and leaving for a while.  So focused on what is next that you aren’t really paying attention to what you are doing now.  That really scares me when I’m driving.  Focusing on the next stop or what I have to do when I reach my destination I’ll find myself thinking, “Did I look for traffic before I turned that corner?”  Shudder.  It is those times that the MTM needs to have Charles Emerson Winchester’s words ring in their head: “Do one thing at a time, do it well, and then move on.”  Or, as my husband says to me, “Could you just do NOW? We’ll do later, later.”

 Of course, even Charles learned that there are times you have to move quickly or do multiple things at one time.  Multi-tasking isn’t always bad.  It helps me work and keep our family fed and cleaned most of the time. It helps me accomplish the things I need to accomplish and still have time to do things that are relaxing and fun.  If I didn’t multi-task I wouldn’t be me.  It’s the way I’m wired.  The key is keeping it under control so that my family doesn’t want to pull out my wires.

 The other day I had an epiphany: next year at this time we will be celebrating our oldest daughter’s graduation and preparing to move.  Sounds like an overwhelming amount of work doesn’t it? So my MTM took over and I made this suggestion to our daughter: If we have everything packed ahead of time then we could truly have an OPEN HOUSE.  I can run the garage sale in the garage at the same time as the party and as a gift for her graduation people could pick up a box and load it into the moving truck before they left.  We could get everything done at one time.  Sound reasonable doesn’t it?  Yeah….she didn’t think so either…..



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