For many work-at-home moms (WAHMs), the art of multitasking means learning not only how to multitask but when to do so. Busy WAHMs develop tricks and shortcuts so they can manage to get everything done they need to get done throughout their day.
Inevitably, WAHMs find themselves in some circumstances when they have no choice but to multitask; in other circumstances, it's just not a good idea. Knowing when to say no to multitasking is as important as learning how to do it.
There are a few guidelines that can help you do both.
Combine Mental and Physical Tasks
Pair complex mental tasks only with simple physical tasks. Emphasize the word simple. Driving, for example, isn't a simple task (nor is it purely physical), so it shouldn't be combined with a complex mental task.
Here are some examples of simple-physical-task/complex-mental-task combos that work well together:
- Think out a multifaceted problem in the shower or while walking the dog
- Fold laundry while watching a recorded video of a work-related presentation
- Catch up on reading for work in a doctor's waiting room
Offer Your Full Attention
Nothing is more annoying than talking on the phone to someone whose responses to questions are preceded by long pauses punctuated with the tapping of a keyboard. So don't be that person. Give your colleagues your full attention when you are speaking to them.
The same goes for your family. Children of WAHMs can get the idea that their mothers work all the time, especially if they continue to check email or talk on the phone while playing with their kids.
Establish a Clear Divide
One of the important rules for working from home is, as much as you can, to work when you say you will and not to work when you say you won't. Inevitably, life sometimes intrudes on work and vice versa. But establishing a clear divide between work and life most of the time helps your children understand their place in your work environment and prevents work from making your children seem second most important.
Work Until Completion
Whenever possible, stay focused on each individual task, whether it's home- or work-related, until it's completed. Otherwise, multitasking can lead to a scattered approach and a list of half-finished jobs.
A related tip is to complete tasks that require less of your time first to get them out of the way. Of course, that's not possible if a hugely important and very time-consuming project is suddenly due in six hours, for instance. But if all things are of relatively equal importance, check off the small jobs on your list first.
Choose Joy Instead of Guilt
Trying to get lots of things done in a given workday can lead you to feel rushed and stressed. Take a breath or a break when you're feeling overwhelmed.
Attempt to find the joy in what you're doing each moment and don't feel bad if a non-crucial task falls through the cracks. There's always tomorrow.