Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All My Attention

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.


  1. Wow you are a multitasker! I wonder if I call out names to the hubs if he’ll repeat them back! haha We dont have kids but it sounds like a lot of fun!

  2. Sometimes multi-tasking is the only way to get everything done in time. But research suggests that multi-tasked tasks actually take longer done simultaneously than done one after the other, and most often the result is worse. (I'm doing it all day.)

  3. Great post, very well written! Gives one a lot to think about...

  4. I believe I heard (or read?) the same article! I've been trying to sort my multitasking. As in, I try to give my full attantion to people when I'm dealwing with people, be it MacGyver, Punky, or Flintstone or just a random Marine. Everything else, though, is still totally at my scattered, multitasking mercy!

    I'm excited to hear that it's working out well for you. Has the fam noticed?

  5. I'm glad the change is working for you! : )

    I honestly suck at multi-tasking but I do watch tv while I'm on the computer.

    I'm like you. I DVR everything and have to rewind when I miss something because I'm updating my status on Facebook. lol!

  6. Good for you for your newfound awareness. I'm aware that I multitask, and I do try to scoop up my youngest or sit with my daughter to watch tv, but about 20 minutes into it, I'm always, "Ok, gotta go pack the lunches!" Sitting still is an artform that takes years to perfect.

  7. I have never been much of a multitasker myself. I tend to focus to the point of obsession on what I'm doing at the moment and if something else comes along before I'm finished and my attention shifts I tend to forget to finish the first project! I have to force myself to wait to start something new until I'm finished!

    I have been realizing more and more that I need to slow down and focus on the most important things, which turns out to be my wife and kids! :) I have a lot of things that need to get done but I've found that they get done eventually even though I'm spending more time just having fun with the family!

  8. Sounds like a great new way of thinking.


  9. Oh, you are a woman after my own heart. This post resonates so much with me it is rather scary. While, just this morning we were doing spelling words while eating breakfast and then while driving to school. I too get extremely frustrated with my co-residents who don't multitask at work. Looks like I have a lot to learn...

  10. I love this post!

    I recently heard someone say something to the effect of, "People who don't multi-task get half the things done. People who do multi-task get them halfway done."

  11. The apple doesn't fall from the tree. Thanks for the note to re-focus! Focus always works. I just forget that people don't believe they are important until I stop, look and listen. Its better than being hit by the train of I wish I could.. go back, do that again, if they only knew, how did they grow up so fast...You are always looking for ways to be better and doing it! Hugs.

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