Motherhood’s Multi-Tasking Mayhem

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 185

It turns out there is significant research to suggest that, contrary to what we believed in the nineties, multi-tasking is really only a good way to scatter a mother’s brain – not get more done.

Ok, so that might be a simplification of this research, but experts in this field do say that the act of switching between two tasks and getting them done takes a longer time than fully completing two individual tasks one after the other.

I bring this up because I am a mother, who happens to be building a house, catching up on a week’s worth of washing and housework, arranging playdates, meal times and writing articles. And most importantly, I bring it up because the topic of this article was going to be significantly different to how it has turned out. I had fully intended to write about Quantum Physics, however, after managing to half-complete four paragraphs in four hours, I did the only thing anyone wanting to keep their sanity does… I pressed save, made a cup of tea, hugged each of the kids and sat back down in front of a blank document to type whatever came out.

Unsurprisingly then, this article became all about multi-tasking!

The reason multi-tasking often backfires on busy people is that when they begin working on a certain project or chore, their brain has to make a decision on how each thing is to be done. When the tasks that need to be performed require very different thought or physical processes (such as in the life of a parent) the brain has to spend time switching between each mode. And if there are many “switches” back and forth throughout the day (such as in the life of a parent) it adds a significant amount of time to a job.

I’m not sure if any research has looked into the correlations between the extended time it takes to complete the day’s jobs and the level of frustration that is felt by the person completing these tasks, but I’m pretty sure we could do a quick survey at the school gate and find some concrete evidence to say that parents believe this is the case.

Drawing on this knowledge, I have reminded myself that if I let go of any attachment and preconceived expectations about the outcome of a task and just allow it to evolve in unison with each of the other important facets of the day, then when all is said and done I will have finished each individual job – and hopefully avoided building children and raising houses.