Multitasking gets a bad reputation in productivity circles, and for good reason. It’s really hard to do two things at once, or at least do them well. Yes, it’s tempting to read email while you’re on a phone call, but then you miss things. Perhaps the call is not important enough that it matters if you miss things but then…why are you on the call?
However, there are ways to double up on activities in order to fit more into a full life. Here are five strategies I’m currently employing to get a bit more done.
I clean while practicing speeches. I am not sure how useful this is for anyone else, but it is for me! I speak without slides, always from memory, but I slice and dice my material in different ways, depending on group demographics and the duration of my talk. I like to practice several times before any given engagement. But, since I do have the material memorized, it’s not like I need to stay in one spot. So I practice while roaming around the house, often doing cleaning or organization projects. Laundry needs to be folded? I’m talking time management while doing it. Pile of review copies of books needs to be purged? I’m talking time management. And earlier this week, I purged old make-up from the bathroom while plodding through the speech I’m giving Sunday. Highly efficient!
I listen to podcasts while driving. If the kids are in the car I try to talk with them, which I suppose is its own form of multitasking. But if I am by myself, I listen to various podcasts: Best of Both Worlds (of course! Listening to the finished product helps me improve), Am Writing, Happier, Another Mother Runner, What Should I Read Next?, etc. I am trying to listen critically to figure out what works and what doesn’t, so Sarah and I can put this into practice.
I exercise with friends. Since I run every day, I am mostly running by myself. But of late, it’s been 1-2 times per week with others. This is a great way to catch up and make the miles go quickly. I especially like doing longer runs with company. Much as I like running, it’s easy to get bored by an hour in (since I generally don’t listen to anything while running — I like to be aware of my surroundings).
I read during kids’ activities. One way I’ve built more reading time, structurally, into my life, is to always have a book with me (often via the Kindle app), and to read it during karate, or gymnastics, or whatever activity my kids are doing. That’s easily 30-45 minutes at a pop. This is at least part of the reason I’m now 80 percent of the way through War and Peace!
I sing at church. As I think about it, this is multitasking in a way too. I wanted to get back into singing, and I did by joining my church choir. The upside of this is that I’m combining singing time with time I would have been attending church (at least some proportion of weeks!).
There are all kinds of ways people do multitasking in its nicer forms: supervising a kid doing homework while making dinner, for instance. Now that I am often stuck lying next to my 2-year-old while he falls asleep (long story) I may start trying to listen to podcasts via my headphones while he stops squirming (this is partly to keep me from falling asleep…) One woman told me she got a waterproof iPod type thing and listened to audiobooks while swimming laps (whoa!) When Inc magazine ran a piece on Slack co-founder Cal Henderson’s schedule, he mentioned walking to work while listening to audiobooks. I think that’s a 3x multitask there (commute, exercise, read…)
Do you have any out-of-the-box ways you double up to fit more in your life?
Photo: Completely unrelated photo of chrysanthemums