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Friday, March 26, 2010

Good News About Multi-tasking?

Multi-tasking isn’t all that bad.  And the research backs me up.

Ok, this is the same research that condemns me on the one hand, but I see the cup as half full.  In short, I’m a parallel processor. 

According to the research, women are very good at doing two things (or more) at once when they are parallel processing.  The key is to only do one mentally challenging task at a time.

What does parallel processing look like?  Well, let me start by explaining what it doesn’t look like.  Last weekend, I was trying to play a board game with my kids while I was working on my laptop.  (Please save the parenting advice – I’m known to be pressed for time on the weekends.)

Every time it was “my turn” my kids would remind me. Mom, hurry up, it’s your turn again. I’d forget who made the last play and it took me twice as long to make my move.   When I switched back to my laptop, I had totally lost my train of thought.  And, as soon as I was fully engaged on the computer, it was time for “my turn” again in the game.

After about 20 minutes, I was mentally exhausted from switching back and forth.  Worse yet, I wasn’t very fun to play with and I wasn’t getting any work done. 

Did I resort to doing just one thing at a time?  Of course not.  I’m a busy working mom.  I don’t have the luxury of doing one thing at a time.  Instead, I moved on to plan B.

Plan B is parallel processing.  I decided to do some mindless tasks – like addressing envelops and baking brownies – during our board game.  It worked like magic.  (I’m known to make brownies in my sleep, and I never had to be reminded it was “my turn.”)  Everyone was happy, I got some stuff done, and I saved my mentally challenging work for an opportune moment – like when the rest of my family was zoned out in front of the TV.

So, the next time you’re accused of being a crazed multi-tasker, just proclaim that you’re a parallel processor.  Yes, busy women have no choice but to take care of multiple tasks at the same time.  And most of us are headed into busy weekends!


Kelly@ JustWrite said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! Congrats on your book coming out--love the title!! That's what we're all doing, really, isn't it? Chasing Superwoman.

As far as parallel processing...yeah, I think I discovered this the hard way too! No way can I write AND play with my kids. But, cook dinner, get the kids bathed, AND sort through the mail? No problem.

Great blog, so happy you found me! :)

Susan DiMickele said...

Thanks so much Kelly -- I look forward to following your writing. You are a Superwoman in your own right!

Keli Gwyn said...

Love the shift in mindset. I've been known to parallel process many times. Like you, Susan, I can make this work if neither task requires total concentration.

Jody Hedlund said...

Susan! I'm so pleased to meet you! I've heard Rachelle speak highly of you. Congrats on your book! I love the idea of parallel processing--what a great idea for us busy moms!