“How can there be a problem with multi-tasking? I have a to-do list that contains 100 items a day…multi-tasking is awesome!”
Why I’m Talking to the Ladies…
This article is specifically for those women among us who do too much. You know who you are. While there are men who multi-task, it’s more commonly known as the territory of women.
History shows that no matter what, we get things done.
If you’re a woman who spends her days relaxing by the pool, kudos to you! (Side note…how can I sign up?) If you have the means and ability spend your days in leisure…then this article will probably bore you.
Reality (and statistics) show most of us don’t live anything close to a sedate or luxurious life. We’re racing from the moment our eyes open until we drop (exhausted) into bed…just to start the whole process over again. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, with kids or without, women pack a lot of action into a mere 24-hours.
Whether you’re hustling because your family depends on you, because you have dreams of building an empire, or a combination of goals unique to you…we need to talk.
We do all the things and are still expected to look fabulous doing it. We’ve been hitting the hustle for millennia and every decade, we take on new levels of insanity to up the stakes and really keep things interesting.
It’s a Good Time for a Break
For a couple of minutes, I want you to slow down and breathe. Don’t look at your notifications, don’t jump up to manage the universe. Don’t panic about the last time you shaved your legs. Put the brakes on your 90mph day and let’s talk.
We need to unpack this one layer at a time because things are getting ridiculous.
Not everything I discuss here will specifically apply to you and your situation but let’s be honest about one thing we all know to be true for the majority of women:
You might not be exercising every day or heading up the PTA or organizing a gala for your company or baking cookies or closing a major deal or running the carpool…but your time is filled to the brim with something. Probably a whole lot of somethings.
You fit everything in and solve your problems with multi-tasking.
The life of every woman is complex and unique. Day after day scheduled out with groupings of “things to do” that are particular to your life…and if you’re like most of us, you’re doing way too much with very little time. So pour yourself a cup of coffee and slow down for a minute.
Time Management – Ninja Level
As a rule, we’re usually pretty awesome at time-management in the grand scheme of things. Whether you run your behind off every day, a couple of days a week, or during set times of the year, you rock that running…you excel at fitting a great many things into a very little amount of time.
It’s the nature of who we are. A badass female trait. (Yeah, I said it.)
Men are great and all but most of them can’t hold a candle to how a woman multi-tasks. A fact so well-known comedians earn their living by making fun of it!
So what’s the problem with multi-tasking? I’m glad you asked because the answer is something to seriously consider before you pack out your calendar for next year.
The Link Between Stress, Multi-Tasking, and Memory Loss
Over the last decade, there’s a whole new aspect of being a mom, sister, friend, wife, and so on. Humans (both genders) are connected 24 hours a day, personally and professionally, and it’s taking a toll on our ability to handle stress.Humans are connected 24 hours a day and it’s taking a toll on our ability to handle stress.Click To Tweet
Jason Radley with the University of Iowa explains, “For those who suffer from chronic stress, it seems the cumulative exposure to cortisol over a person’s lifespan may produce a weathering of the brain and an erosion of cognitive functioning.”
Our busy lives also impact the quality of our sleep and that’s another serious issue that’s been linked to cognitive decline as we age.
University of Michigan psychology professor, David Meyer, specifically points to the thing we women do so well. “When you’re multitasking, that’s interfering with processes that normally would be devoted 100% to [moving] info from short-term memory into long-term memory.”
In other words, if you’re busting through your to-do list while handling phone calls, children, and a spouse who can’t find his socks…you aren’t giving your brain the pause it needs between tasks to make new memories and store them for later.
For those of you who lead a busy professional life, this is critical. While I’m listening to a conference call on mute, I’m also checking email (and replying), sending and receiving text messages, making updates to my planner, and maybe even doing some prep for whatever I plan to make for dinner.
After that call, I often can’t remember exactly what was discussed or I realize I stopped prepping salad ingredients in the middle, or that I wrote a text or email but never sent it.
My brain is experiencing little “skips” because it’s dealing with too many things at the same time to function flawlessly.
Even worse…according to a study released by Stanford University, we’re losing about 40% of our productivity by multi-tasking! That was the stat that blew my mind. Racing like rats in a maze and getting a lot less done.We’re losing about 40% of our productivity by multi-tasking! #ProductivityFailClick To Tweet
We’ve Grown Too Busy
Don’t believe me? Do you remember – as a child or young woman yourself – how the grown women of your family used to relax? It’s the main reason I looked forward to adulthood.
The workday done, the smaller kids settled, the men gabbing over whatever men find interesting, and the women off by themselves. As a teenager, hanging out with the older women in my family remain some of my fondest memories.
Relaxing on the porch, conversation running fast and hot, something delicious in hand, listening to the sound of the late evening.
No cell phones. No tablets. No endless channels on television.
Now don’t get me wrong…I love those things! Nothing makes me happier than binge-watching a newly discovered show with a friend and a glass of wine (while also following whatever nonsense is happening on Facebook).
The problem with multi-tasking the universe is there’s no time to be still anymore. The world is filled with noise, activity, and non-stop things to do. Our diets are shot. We’re over-connected and over-exposed to more people than was ever possible.
So…here are a few tips to slow down. I know! I know you think you can’t. I thought the same thing. It’s not only possible, you’ll probably get more done in less time.
5 Tips to Overcoming the Problems of Multi-Tasking
1. Don’t be in love with being busy. The only one keeping score is you. Love yourself enough to guard your time fiercely. Learn to say “no” if what’s being asked isn’t something that adds to your overall quality of life.
Learn to say NO if what’s being asked isn’t something that adds to your overall quality of life.Click To Tweet
2. End your day with stillness. A long bath, meditation, or taking a walk are great ways to wind down your mind and body for sleep. Because I don’t have small people, I start my day with what I call the “power hour.” Exercise, meditation, and notes to myself. It sets the tone that I’m in control…not the to-do list.
3. Eat a diet that feeds your brain the healthy fats it requires. I talk about this a lot but changing my diet (and forgetting the hype about fat) has helped my concentration so much. Check out my book “Healing Fats of Life” and incorporate some of my favorite (and delicious) healthy fats in your meal plans. This is a small but powerful step!
4. Give your body the sleep it needs. Honestly, I used to beat myself up about sleep. I called myself lazy when I accidentally fell asleep too early or slept too late. Now, I keep to a schedule but I get my eight hours (nine if I’m feeling decadent). Everyone else is sleeping…you know those kids are in bed! It’s your turn!
5. Break between tasks as often as possible. This one isn’t always easy but taking even five minutes to process after a project, call, email, or family situation will help your brain fix the event in your memories and make you more productive.
Love you. Be good to you. And keep being a badass…within limits! You might be Wonder Woman but Superman doesn’t show up as conveniently as he does in the comics.
Pace yourself, woman! You have decades left to hustle!