4 Ways to Stop Multitasking, Because Being Good at It Is Actually Bad for You

mom multitasking with kids

Look at you there, so proudly reading this on your screen while you gulp down a cup of coffee, shove the crusts of your kiddo's leftover PB&J into your mouth, wash a couple of dishes, read what JK Rowling and Amy Schumer just tweeted to one another, AND text your husband to get toilet paper on the way home. You've got multitasking down to a science. But alas, doing everything -- and we mean EVERYTHING -- at once is hurting your brain big-time.


A recent Quartz article broke down what happens in the simplest possible terms:

When you multitask, you don't really do everything at once. You toggle between a bunch of crap. Kind of like flipping through TV channels without watching any one show. Mentally switching gears like that uses up your brain's energy stores, leaving you depleted and LESS able to concentrate.

We'd be horrified by that if we hadn't skipped out for a few min to read a few headlines, text a friend about that JK Rowling–Amy Schumer exchange, and try to gleam what's going to happen on Stranger Things during season 2.

Where were we?

Oh, yes! Multitasking: Bad. Very bad. So why are we all going to continue to do it anyway?

"We women tend to take on a lot -- at work, at home, and in our relationships too," explains Samantha Ettus, a work-life balance expert and author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction. "This means that we have different slices of our life that we're thinking about at all times."

Hence, multitasking. It feels necessary and the ONLY way to get through our super-crowded days. But, as you already know, there is a cost. And we're not just talking about your massive credit card bill from Starbucks.

"The danger of multitasking is doing a lackluster job at each task or even forgetting some of them," Ettus points out. "It's hard to do well at anything when you're only giving it your partial attention."

So quick, before you run off to throw some laundry in the dryer, head to Pilates class, or grab the kids from school, here's how to break this brain-eating habit.

1. Don't think of it as "breaking a habit." "Think of it as getting your priorities straight," Ettus says. "You aren't going to do less today, but you can put it all in order." Sounds better, right?

2. Write everything down. Scribble a to-do list on an old-school piece of paper, type it on your phone, draw it onto a dry-erase board  -- doesn't matter. But EVERYTHING you need to get done today -- even things you're pretty sure you'll remember -- needs to be put into writing.

"The biggest danger of multitasking is not finishing what you start and forgetting to attend to all that is on your plate," explains Ettus. "Writing it down prevents this."

More from CafeMom: Heartstopping Video on Texting & Driving Is a Wake-Up Call for Multitasking Moms

3. Commit to being charismatic. Think of the most charming, exuberant, friendly person you know. When you're with that person, he or she makes YOU feel like the most interesting person in the room, yes?

You need to mimic his or her behavior, Ettus says. "Give that [same] level of attention to everything you do."

So it's not: "Ugh, I have to balance my boring stupid checkbook" -- but instead, breaking out a laser-like focus and eagerness to see all those debit card transactions. Still not convinced? Fake it till you make it.

4. Go slow. Multitasking is an ingrained habit. You have as much chance of quitting cold turkey as you do giving up Facebook or going gluten-free overnight.

Analyze your daily habits, stick to your to-do list, and then, slowly and patiently, tend to mark things off your list one by one.

"Doing it all simultaneously won't help you get it done faster," reminds Ettus, "but it will ensure that you get it done sloppier."


Image via iStock.com/Geber86

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