What Tasks Should and Should Not be Multi-tasked

While this blog is called The Multitasking Mom, that does not mean that I am a proponent of multitasking everything.

As a mom, multitasking at one time or another is inevitable. You open a juice box while you talk on the phone.  You discuss your kid's day while you prepare dinner. You scroll through social media during commercial breaks.  

But not everything can or should be multi-tasked. Below I discuss what can and should be multi-tasked and what things should absolutely never be multi-tasked.  

Some tasks are OK to multitask, while others should definitely not be. Here's how to tell the difference.  

Things to Multitask

While multitasking in general doesn't work as a way of saving time, you can multitask as long as you’re doing two things that don’t tax the same parts of your brain. Email while on a conference call? Bad idea. But riding your bike to work is the perfect way to combine exercise and your commute (as long as you have a reasonable commute).

One of my favorite multitasks is listening to podcasts while performing other tasks.  Podcasts are great for both personal development and entertainment. You can listen to podcasts while you drive, while you make dinner, while you fold laundry, or while you work out. Podcasts are an excellent way to stimulate the brain while performing basic tasks.

Along the same lines, you can also listen to audio books while doing chores or driving. It's a perfect way to keep yourself company during your commute.  

Another great time to multitask is while exercising. You can use exercise time as family time by getting the whole family to exercise together. You can take a family walk or a family bike ride or a family Zumba party. You can also use exercise time to catch up on TV either by doing cardio on a machine or doing weight lifting. 

The last area where multitasking works is in utilizing wait time. You can check emails while you are waiting on the pick up line at school or read a few pages of a book while waiting for a pot to boil. You can perform other household tasks between putting clothes in the washing machine and switching them to the dryer. 

Stressed from multitasking

Things Not to Multitask

On the other hand, tasks that require using the same part of your brain should definitely not be multi-tasked. When you think you are performing two tasks at the same time, your brain is actually switching quickly back and forth between tasks. 

This can be tiring for your brain and it definitely wastes time and energy. Each time your brain switches between tasks, it takes a few seconds which can definitely add up.  On top of that, when you don't devote your full attention to a task, you can make mistakes which can cost you time later.

Here are some tasks that people often multitask but shouldn't:

  • Checking email and listening to a conference call
  • Checking sports scores while writing a report
  • Checking facebook and making phone calls
  • Eating dinner and checking Instagram (plus it's just rude)
  • Working on multiple documents at once

The key to knowing the difference between when you should and shouldn't multitask, is noting how much brain capacity each activity takes. Matching socks and folding laundry is pretty automatic, so multitasking there is generally fine. Multitasking while working on an important project, not so much. 

What are your favorite activities to multitask? Let me know in the comments.