Multi-Tasking, the NEW Way to Drive Yourself Crazy

February 4th, 2009

I never do just one thing–how about you?

In a few minutes, I’m going to go throw the ball for my dog.  Only I’m not just going to throw the ball for my dog.  I’m also going to grab a book or magazine and read it while he’s trotting back and forth.  And, since I never have enough time to exercise, I’m also going to do squats and lunges WHILE throwing the ball AND reading my book. 

I always do all these three things together, except when I decide to throw the ball while talking on the telephone.  I prefer to clean up when I’m on the telephone, though: in fact, I’ll often leave the kitchen a mess in the morning, figuring I’ll pull it all together as soon as the phone rings.  It’s good to clean up when you’re on the phone because if you check your e-mail when you’re on the phone, your voice gets distracted and you take too long to respond.  I know, because most of the people I talk to on the phone are also checking their email.

Multi-tasking isn’t just some way of being efficient: it’s a way of surviving.  How else can you do the ten million things you need to do on any given day?

I’m torn in the car: should I listen to the news and get the headlines that way–a person’s got to know what’s going on in the world, right?–or put on the top 20 hits station so I have some sense of what my kids are listening to and will seem a little less out of touch?  I hate not knowing what they’re listening to.  (I also frequently hate what they’re listening to.) 

I also need to use my stopped-at-a-red-light time wisely.  I try to have a magazine open on the seat next to me–never know when you’ll be able to cram another paragraph or two in before your light turns green again.  Sometimes you can clean the floor up a little during a really long red light, but I don’t like doing that–too much twisting.  So I try to pick up the car when I’m getting gas.

What else?  I eat lunch at the computer, test the kids on their homework while I’m cooking, fold laundry while I’m watching TV, knit in the car (only when my husband’s driving–I’m  not crazy), read when I brush my teeth, do leg-lifts when I floss, check my e-mail while I’m baking–basically I don’t do anything by itself anymore. 

I’m not saying this to show off: I bet everyone who’s reading this has his or her own multi-tasking going on constantly.  My 80 year old father frequently complains about how busy his schedule is: we’re all swamped with work and trying to cram as much into any given moment as we can.  (Which explains why the dads at the school performances are always punching at their Blackberries–I’m sure it’s because they just have too much work and not because they’re bored listening to kids sing.)

Now’s the part of the essay when I’m supposed to start bemoaning what our lives have become and how we should all be stopping to smell the roses and all that.  Only I’m not going to do that.  I’m not the rose-smeller type.  My husband can tell you–whenever he points out some beautiful scenery, I glance at it with a “Okay, I see it, what now?” kind of attitude.  If you made me stop to smell the roses, I’d probably jump out of my skin.

Life is freakin’ short, folks.  I ain’t young anymore and I have no idea how much more time I have, but I’m not going to spend it sitting on the ground, sniffing roses.  I want to be successful, I want to spend tons of time with my kids, I want to see my friends frequently, I want to be in good shape and look decent for my age, I want to relax but I don’t want to be bored when I’m doing it (hence the knitting/watching TV combo) and mostly, I want to feel like I did something at the end of each day.

For a counter-opinion, go talk to Harvey the Yellow Lab, who’s lying on the floor, basking in the glorious sun at the moment.  But, now that I think about it,  even he multi-tasks: every time I bring him outside to play, he takes a time out from chasing the ball for a quick pee and poop.   He gets all the necessary tasks out of the way AND has fun.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.

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