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Time is not on my side

Old Clocks

Do you multitask?

I do to the point of madness. I’m doing it right now. Type a few words, take a bite of breakfast. Chew. Repeat.

A typical weekday morning will find me up at 5:30 and into whirling dervish mode — laundry going while I shower, eating breakfast while I make lunch, reminding Catherine about an important appointment or school-related task or activity while getting dressed or packing up for work. I learn new Jazzercise routines with one eye on the clock, another on my BlackBerry; and put my shoes on with one hand while brushing my teeth with the other.

Back at home in the evening, it’s a similar frantic routine — make dinner while emptying the dishwasher, respond to email or fold laundry while watching TV, read a good book someone recommended or make the grocery list during the commercials.

The weekends are even crazier — I often start Saturday by getting the CrockPot, washing machine and dishwasher humming simultaneously. I make phone calls while straightening up, dusting or wiping down the bathrooms.

It seems men are less likely to multitask. I don’t know if it is because they are wired that way or because they choose to have a more singular focus.  Basil prefers to complete one task at a time, and stop for a good rest on the couch whenever the spirit moves him.

Approach him with the idea of doing two things at once and he must gather his thoughts first. Ask him to get more than three things at the market and he needs to make a list. Which he leaves on the table as he drives away. (Sigh.)

Catherine clearly has the multitasking gene — but uses it selectively, for leisure activities only. If I ask her to do a succession of chores, she’ll cry foul, pointing out that she hasn’t finished the first one yet. However, she is able watch TV, video chat, instant message, Facebook and listen to Lil’ Wayne in one fell swoop. While letting her nails dry.

The way I see it, though, multitasking is a necessary evil: There aren’t enough hours in the day to get to everything that needs doing — let alone the fun stuff I vowed to try as I “live out loud.”

To be sure, regular multitasking has its drawbacks.

I find it difficult to turn it off — give me five minutes in a school pickup line and I’m cleaning out my purse, purging text messages or filing my nails.

Unlike Basil, I don’t know enough to pace myself; I’m always in one of two modes — high speed or catatonic.

I’m not always “present.” In fact, I’ve been known to ask the same question repeatedly because I never heard the answer the first 12 times.

And I often lose my place. In fact, more and more lately, I find myself standing in a room with no idea what I set out to do there.

It comes back to me eventually — usually after I’ve started the next task.

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


4 thoughts on “Time is not on my side

  1. i read this while watching TV and eating breakfast with a scrabble game lit on my iphone. Oh and doing the one thing that last all morning, procrastinating going to work.

    Posted by Erin | October 18, 2011, 9:09 am
  2. Terri you are walking my walk! Multitasking is the only way I can make it through my days, even so I’m not getting everything done.

    When something unexpected happens, my whole schedule is tossed and necessary tasks fall through the cracks. I recently confused the times I was to drive the neighborhood carpool to religious education class, something I do weekly. Fortunately I have lovely neighbors who are generous with their forgiveness. I know this recent confusion is evidence that I’m living too close to the margin, no built in time to deal with a mini crisis.

    What to do? A friend recently said she was going to lower her expectations. As much as I would hate to lower my expectations, there may be something to that advice.

    Posted by Kathy | October 18, 2011, 7:38 am

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