Multi-Tasking vs. Time-Blocking

This graceful woman holding the baby, drinking coffee, checking email and helping with schoolwork is not me. I am not really sure, actually, if she is real or myth. Because I am definitely not that stereotypical woman who can multi-task well. In fact, when I do, I usually make a big mess of something.

If I talk on the phone while making dinner, I will either mix the ingredients in wrong OR burn the chow, neither outcome very well appreciated by my family.

If I type an email while listening to my daughter tell me about something that happened yesterday, either my email will make no sense OR I will not have heard her.

If I start multiple cleaning projects at once, I will not finish something correctly, leaving a surprise for the one that comes upon it… a pile of dirt and crumbs in the middle of the floor (usually stepped on by the next child who passes through), disinfectant spray on a counter that hasn’t been wiped off, a pile of laundry on the bathroom floor…

When I attempt to listen to a reading lesson at the same time that I help someone with math or spell words for someone writing a paper, I will either no longer hear the reader OR spell a word incorrectly OR hurt someone’s feelings because I wasn’t paying attention.

Am I dumb?

Well, I hope not. But I am a horrible multi-tasker. Is there anyone else in the world like me?

I have found that time-blocking is my solution! Interested? Read on…

Time-blocking means to work on only one task at a time and ideally to lump similar items together to get more accomplished at one time. Here are a few examples:

1. If you are going to clean one bathroom, clean them all. I clean the upstairs bathroom at the same time that I clean the downstairs bathroom. This is almost like killing two birds with one stone, because you already have the cleaning products and rags out. Plus, you may be able to reuse a cleaning rag or towel, therefore reducing the laundry just a wee bit. (True confession – I don’t clean the bathrooms hardly EVER because my kids do it now. Yippee!)

2. When you are returning an email, set aside time to return them all. Same with phone calls. Find a block of time and make all of your phone calls at once. For me, this keeps me on task and moving through my “to do” list a little more quickly.

3. Have all of your children work on math at the same time. Or spelling. Or grammar, etc. For me, this works wonders. My brain can settle solidly in math mode (or whatever subject). It also allows my children to help each other AND to wait more patiently for me.

I hope these few examples of time-blocking is helpful for you. I feel less like a chicken with my head cut off when I time-block. I have set-up our schedule in time block chunks which allow us to move through our day a little more smoothly.

[This just happened... I was purchasing the photo at the top of this post just now when my husband began talking to me about something else. I was trying to listen to him, but didn't want to stop what I was doing. Guess what? I purchased the $16 larger version rather than the $1.60 xsmall version. Yes, I proved my own point to myself just now. I should have stopped what I was doing to listen to my husband :) The great part is that iStockPhoto will gladly refund my purchasing error.]

Question: What tips can you share that make your day less bumpy?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 at 11:36 am and is filed under Home Business, Homemaking, Homeschooling, Lifestyle, Parenting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Diane Hurst

    I can relate to this, Terri– I’m very task-oriented and like to finish things, but usually can only manage one thing at a time . . . my husband has the wonderful gift of being able to successfully multi-task (he even set up two computer screens so he can be doing something on both of them at the same time). Thanks for your ideas on time-blocking. That’s one thing I’ve done (didn’t know what it was called) that helps me with emailing– if I filter some things (ex. messages from a certain group) so the messages all come in together it’s faster to go through.

    • / Terri Johnson

      Yeah, I have two computer screens too, Diane, but find that I get too distracted. I work better on one. :) Thanks for popping in here.

  • Michelle Cannon

    Excellent tips! I am the same way. In fact, if I am trying to email (or even post a status) and a kid is talking to me, I’ll find myself typing in words they said..or words I said in response. It’s not good. *lol*

    I prefer to block time too. I have the cleaning thing “down” but I’ve owned a cleaning service for 9 years and my kids have grown up with that. So they’re excellent cleaners (at age 14, the start working for me.) But I do find there are times when I start this task and get distracted by that one. Just not worth it at the end of the day when I look around to find not one thing was completed.

    • / Terri Johnson

      I would love to hear some of your housecleaning tips, Michelle! :)

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