The Art of Multitasking
Is multitasking a good thing or a bad habit?
Multitasking is a way of life for many work-at-home moms. In fact, the term work-at-home mom implies multitasking. Many WAHMs don't employ outside childcare but work while caring for children--two very demanding tasks. But even WAHMs whose children are in the care of others can find themselves multitasking.
As with any art, in order to achieve beautiful results, one must be disciplined. Multitasking practiced without discipline--meaning at inappropriate times and places--is actually inefficient and detrimental to family balance.
Multitasking: Is it a Bad Thing?
Apparently, both modern psychologists and ancient slaves would answer yes. The Atlantic in an article condemning multitasking quotes Publilius Syrus, a slave in the 1st century B.C., who said, "To do two things at once is to do neither."
And the American Psychological Association highlights a study that shows that mentally shifting gears between tasks actually costs more time than it saves. This article on NPR.org points out that many times we think we are multitasking when we are not. We are moving our attention from one task to another very quickly but not actually working on them simultaneously.
Or a Necessary Thing?
But in some ways, that last point is simply picking nits for work-at-home moms. Whether we're switching gears quickly or actually doing two things at once, we have a lot of balls in the air. So the question becomes how to keep them from raining down on us.
Multitasking is part of being a mom from the first time you sling a baby on your hip while wiping up spilled milk. The ability to multitask is an essential personality trait for work-at-home moms. But how much you can practice it depends on your child care choices, job, and family.
For instance, telecommuting employees and independent contractors have differing amounts of freedom to integrate home and work tasks. And parents of toddlers may find that, for safety reasons, their child requires their undivided attention.
And so in the end, I'm going to have to disagree with the slaves and psychologists. Multitasking is not inherently bad but, like anything else, it can be overused. So just be mindful of your multitasking and set some multitasking guidelines for yourself.