Exhibit A: I'm cooking dinner. I'm chopping onions, stirring the soup, heating the oven for rolls. And every few moments, I call out a word. "Thoughtful." "Coincidence." "Understand." These aren't mantras. I'm doing spelling homework with Bug. With dinner preparations going on, I don't have time to visually check his spelling, so I have him spell the words back to me. I continue to wait for the soup for boil while I put away dishes, listening to "U-N-D..."
Exhibit B: I'm watching television. I'm a fan of cooking shows, but I don't have time to watch anything when it's actually on, so everything is on DVR. I can fast-forward commercials, so it means I can watch the show in less time (or more shows in the same time.) I have my computer on my lap, reading blogs, Facebook, CNN, and the weather while I watch my shows. Often I have to rewind the show to catch a key part.
Exhibit C: I'm at work. I watch the patient, chart numbers, prepare medications for when the patient is waking up, place orders for the patient for while they will be in recovery, watch the progress of the surgery, chart fluids. During a stable moment, I may skim over a journal article, check my e-mail, or log cases from last week.
All the evidence is there. I'm a multi-tasker. I have lived by the motto: if you aren't multi-tasking, you're doing something wrong. I prided myself in my multi-tasking abilities. I was used to doing two, three, four things at once. At being efficient with my time. Having the boys tell me about their day while I marched through the house, tidying up, sweeping, doing laundry. Listening to test prep material while I drove to school.
I was frustrated with people who didn't multi-task. People who didn't continue on a conversation while they worked. Hubster was always at the brunt of my frustration, since he rarely multi-tasks. When he does dinner, that's all he does. When he does spelling with Bug, he sits down at the table with him. When he talks to you, he stops doing what he is doing. It would drive me crazy!
Then, a while back, I was driving to work, listening to the radio, and I heard this.
Those few minutes listening to NPR changed my perception of what I was doing. I thought I had been so wonderful in my multi-tasking mantra. That I was an effective, efficient, organized person.
But all I was really doing was diluting out my attention. Nothing had my full attention. And it showed. Dinner was burnt more often than I would like to admit. I had to be prompted to give spelling words, and often didn't hear Bug spell them back to me. I was only half-absorbing what I read while watching TV and only half-absorbed what I was watching while I was reading. I hadn't been giving anyone all of my attention.
I would like to say that I am changed, that I have given up my multi-tasking ways. But I haven't. There isn't enough time in the day to do one task at a time. My job requires multi-tasking. And honestly, I'm still deluding myself that I'm really, really, good at this.
It's a work in progress. I burn dinner less often, since I've stopped reading textbooks while I cook. I sit down to do spelling with Bug.
At the end of the day, I pull Bug and Monkey into my lap and ask them about their day. I don't do laundry, I don't mop and tidy and sort mail. I do just one thing. I sit there and listen. I given them all my attention. And it's starting to show.