Confessions Of A Multitasker And 10 Steps To Recovery

Yes, I admit it. I am an admitted doer-of-14-things-at-once addict. I text, put make up on, and drive at the same time. I read email, schedule conference calls and check Twitter while Googling potential keynote speakers and training subjects in one swoop. I help one kid with homework while scolding another for forgetting his at school, chat with my daughter on the phone, and run the puppy out of the kitchen all while preparing dinner. Is this normal?

For most women, yes, it is. We are the masters of multi-tasking. Truth be told, you can’t live in this day and age without having some multi-tasking skills. But…and that’s a big but (ahem, pardon the pun)…by constantly multi-tasking we are cheating ourselves, our kids, and our performance.

We tend to believe that the human brain is this super powerhouse able to compute whatever we throw at it in as many directions as we please. However. according to recent studies at the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University, neuroscientists have shown that “a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once”.

Don’t believe it? Try this: Silently start counting backwards from 20. Now, out loud, say exactly what you see in your surroundings. What happened to your counting?

Penelope Trunk, a favorite blogger and columnist with the Boston Globe, has a great article in which she summarizes 10 Tps For Time Management in a Multitasking World.  Here are ten important tips to get a better handle on your work and focus to improve productivity:

    1. Don’t leave email sitting in your in box. – Organize in folders, when you check your email take action immediately by scheduling to calendar, replying, or moving to your to-do list if it needs more thought.

    2. Admit multitasking is bad. – We went over this. The first step in getting help is admitting there is a problem.

    3. Do the most important thing first. – Organize yourself the night before and prioritize. Focus on this one thing until it’s complete.

    4. Check your email on a schedule. – You don’t have to answer according to everyone else’s schedule unless it’s truly urgent. Once you get in the habit of replying on a more consistent basis your contacts will adjust to your non-reactive replies.

    5. Keep web site addresses organized. – Use bookmarks, bookmarklets, tags, and social bookmarking sites like or Foxmarks to keep frequently used sites within a click or two.

    6. Know when you work best. – Are you a morning person? Schedule your most important tasks for when you are most productive.

    7. Think about keystrokes. – Learn keyboard shortcuts. Hitting and to copy and paste may seem like nothing, but it cuts back on waiting for your computer to bring up drop down menus, clicking and clicking again. Or maybe it’s just me that is so impatient.

    8. Make it easy to get started. – Easily overwhelmed by big projects? Baby steps. Break it down so it doesn’t look so daunting and you’ll find yourself making progress.

    9. Organize your to-do list every day. – I like to write mine out by hand and keep it nearby so I can have the satisfaction of putting a big fat line through each task I have completed.

    10. Dare to be slow. – A good time manager does not react to every circumstance that shows up on the spot. Take the time to use your head, think it through, and respond (not react) appropriately. You’ll find by doing this you won’t have to re-address the situation as often.

Personally, I have gotten so bad that I am constantly asking myself what else I could be doing right now to get more done in this moment?”. I then immediately add that task to what I am doing. I will lay down at night to sleep and drift off thinking of more things that I should be doing, dream about it, and wake up thinking of my to-do list. It’s a sick cycle that I am, right now, committing to stop. My kids deserve my devoted attention. My work deserves my focused attention to produce top results. And my driving definitely needs my attention more on the road. Just ask my Insurance Agent!

Are you a multitasking addict? How do you handle your time management? Share your tips with the other addicts of the blogosphere here!


  1. Nancy says

    Well written article and great to bring this to the forefront of people’s attention with some nice solutions. Another idea is to set the timer to stay focused on the house, kids, and/or limit e-mail/Twittering time. It’s amazing what one can do in 15 minutes as far as housecleaning is concerned. And silly as it may sound to commit 15 minutes to focusing on the kids, it may not happen otherwise. They do really need us to be present with them and to give them undivided attention.

    • Coree says

      @Nancy: It IS amazing what you can do with just 15 minutes of focused time! I can honestly say that since deciding to schedule time to do specific tasks not only have I been more productive, but I no longer feel guilty about not spending time with my kids. 15 minutes is a lot to them and usually about all they want to spare out of their social life anyway, so we both benefit! I appreciate your input as a professional and a parent!

      @Jesse: Thanks for stopping by! I am like you, in that I am most productive in the morning. But, I’ve found that the creative things need to be done in the morning when I am fresh rather than in the afternoons. By the time afternoon rolls around I am already moving on to tasks that will go on tomorrow’s list.

      @The Hoss: Well, that’s one thing I can’t do either. But my TV is very seldom on anyway. Studies have shown that instrumental music may help increase brain activity when you’re working, but anything with lyrics or words tends to distract. So, that makes sense that we can’t watch TV and work. Thanks for your comment!

  2. jesse says

    This post hits the nail rite on the head. Somedays I feel like im cleaning my room on my laptops. For the most part I try to put forth the most difficult tasks early in the day so that later in the day I can enjoy doing the more creative or easy tasks. Refreshing stats and multi tasking becomes a very hard thing to withstand and very time consumning!

  3. The Hoss says

    Ok.You are very opposite to myself. I can’t even watch TV and work on the computer at the same time. Maybe it’s my age but when I think about it I seldom ever did more than I thing at a time. Not sure that I want to.

    The Hoss’s last blog post..Finding the Best Mutual Fund

  4. Marcy T says

    Great post, Coree. This reminds me of the book “the Myth of Multitasking” by Dave Crenshaw.

    • Coree says

      @Marcy T: Thanks, Marcy! I’ll have to check out that book by Crenshaw. I can use all the help I can get!

  5. Kristin says

    I love this post!! I’ve written all ten things down and I’m taking action!:) I can use all the help I can get..haha

  6. Sarah Stone says

    Hi Coree – this is good!

    I’ve been working on this side of my life for the last couple of years (yes years! It’s not achieved over night sadly 😉 ) and found about a year ago – she’s got some awesome tips on time management and home management – she rocks! Without her input I still wouldn’t have dusted (urgh!) for 6months+, I would still have things in draws that I haven’t touched for years, I would still rush around like a mad thing at the last minute all the time, being ‘just’ on time etc etc. Even now things aren’t ‘perfect’, whatever that means! lol but I now know where to find all my paper work, however old it is and whoever it’s from, and it’s not in a huge pile on the floor, it’s neartly categorised in folders; I now have morning, afternoon and evening routines that mean that I (nearly) always have meat and bread out of the freezer in time, rarely have last minute school run panics of “where’s your …” whatever it maybe; I always know what I’m cooking for dinner tonight; I always have football/swimming/PE kits clean, dry and by the front door on time, I could go on, but what I’m trying to say is that organisation of work and home life is achievable and not a myth, it is incredibly releasing as it means that you know you’ve covered all the bases in life that really matter (like someone important to you’s birthday, or planning for that business meeting, or the school play). It’s brought a large degree of peace and harmony to our house and my kids are certainly picking up the catch phrases like “doing your gotta do’s before your wanna do’s”, not always easy to do but once you’re in the habit of ‘making’ yourself do it that you can relax doing what you are doing this moment knowing that the rest is taken care of.

    Sarah :)

  7. Ilene Haddad says

    Great article. Any suggestions for those of us who are paralyzed because we are so snowed under? I have no idea where to begin sometimes.


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