Where was I? #multitasking

Hi, SE friends! Thanks for visiting. You’re with Mae today. Do you remember when no one uttered the word multitasking? When, in the (dinosaur) days of business, projects were conducted one at a time? That manner of productivity seems to have gone the way of roller skate keys and S & H Green Stamps. Who among us doesn’t multitask? I do it on my day job and as an author. It can be mentally exhausting, stressful, and not as efficient as we think.

The other day, I left a simple two-line message for a group I’m connected with through a social platform. Eleven words total. When I went back and looked at it later, I realized there were two typos. Not the end of the world, but it’s embarrassing, and I find myself doing it more frequently. Throughout my (day) career, I have been known as a perfectionist, yet I find myself messing up as an author.

Why? Because I’m juggling two, three, or six things at the same time.

If you’re like me, you’re probably checking email at the same time you’re looking over Twitter, reviewing what you posted on your blog and visiting and commenting on your friends’ blogs. Odds are you may be multitasking as you read this. We have so much to do, and only a limited time to accomplish what we need to get done, we squeeze in as much as we can, when we can—not without consequences.

Mistakes
The more tasks we focus on at one time, the more opportunity we have of making mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read through one of my blog posts or a book review, only to discover a mistake later. When you multitask, your brain is constantly in fast forward, which can result in. . .

Stressed woman with pink post it note surrounded by scores of others in different colorsWhere was I?
Shifting between tasks effects short term memory. Ever been in the middle of a project and draw a blank? Bingo! Your brain just hit a hiccup and has to re-calibrate. And once you lose focus it’s hard to reorient and pick up where you left off.

Case in point:  I had an email come in while I was writing this blog post. What did I do? I hopped over to read it, of course. palmforehead And then I had absolutely no idea what I had been doing before. And now I am . . .

Mentally Exhausted
Multitasking is exhausting. You’ve turned your attention into a ping-pong ball by never allowing it to truly settle and absorb information. Ever notice when you give your undivided attention to a topic, you retain it better than if it’s one of several you’re digesting at the same time? Odds are if you ever engage in research for your writing project, you’re focused solely on that. Maybe that’s why so many writers find research enjoyable and not . . .

Stressful
Who hasn’t felt the pressure of trying to accomplish too much at once? Let’s face it—when we pile on tasks, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. And that brings exhaustion and misery. So, what’s the solution?

List with sections divided out for later, tomorrow, today and now. Now has a black arrow indicating current selectionPrioritize
I go in spurts where I embrace this method of thinking, and it works for a while. I feel good because I usually chalk a lot off off my to-do list. But then I fall into bad habits (multitasking), and I’m back to being mentally exhausted, stressed, and wondering “where was I?” Let’s not forget that multitasking can and does sap creative energy. I also find that I was much better at the wretched thing when I was younger, thriving on the challenge. Meh. Not so anymore.

As writers, multitasking is part of our daily life. We are authors, business owners, marketing specialists, social media participants, editors, readers, designers, and creators. That’s a lot on one plate. Just remember—even if it’s only now and again—you don’t always have to digest it all at one time.

Are you a multitasker? Do you have an organized system that allows you to accomplish daily goals or do you rabbit from task to task, accomplishing what you can, when you can? Share your thoughts and let’s weigh the benefits of multitasking versus the downside of juggling too much at one time.

Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

78 thoughts on “Where was I? #multitasking

  1. LOL, Yvette. I can totally relate. I was multitasking when I wrote the post. And as someone who goes offline on weekends, catching up on Sunday evenings (like now), I frequently have to multitask to catch up. It’s such a hard habit to break. It’s good to know I’m not alone!

    Like

  2. I think women tend to be more proficient at multitasking than men. Heck, when my girls were babies, I would be feeding one, folding laundry, cooking supper, and reading a book all at the same time. The older I get, the harder it is to focus on more than one task at a time. Great post, Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I definitely agree women are better at multi-tasking than men (sorry guys). And I know many men who will agree with that.
      Like you, Jan, I also feel the the older we get the harder it is for us to manage the same multitasking we used to do with ease. Totally sucks, but I guess we have to adjust.
      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:

    I’m really bad about this and have to force myself to stay in the moment rather than let my mind bounce across so many tasks. It’s also good to complete tasks to clear your mind so focus is important to progress. Multitasking is a mirage we think is always available just over the horizon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am guilty of multitasking. I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t. However, I am not as addicted to social media as I once was. A small victory. But with the ever I need it now mentality, it makes multitasking a necessity, however, I agree, it also makes for more mistakes. Who would prefer to concentrate on one thing and move to the next.

    So for now, I need to be content with I can only do what I can, and if the occasional mistake is a result, I will live with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you on stepping back from social media, Michele. I think if we could all do the more often, we wouldn’t feel the pressure of multitasking as much, and there would be less mistakes. How wonderful to be able to concentrate on one thing, and one thing only at a time!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, Mae, a very good post. Yes, doing one thing at a time was in the dinosaur days. When I was working, I had several major parallel projects going on throughout the year. Some had intermittent deadlines, some with annual reports and some were weekly presentations or meetings. So it was a matter of time management.

    Retirement doesn’t make my life slower. I just counted the number of internet tabs I have open – 27 of them. I clicked them back and forth all the time. My husband said it was too slow to load up because I have too many of them open and suggested to log on one at a time. I freaked out. I don’t care how slow to load up, I just don’t have time to look up the password for each site, so I have them all open and jump back and forth.

    There are several journals/notebooks I use for different things and I use color Sharpe pens, so different notes stand out. I may just look for the color to find my notes. I make to-do lists of the day, one of them is the vitamin and medication I take. Sometime I forget to take them. I check the lists a few times a day to make sure those are done or will be carried over

    My daughter and the almost three years old granddaughter are good organizers. When my granddaughter was smaller, she brought me books one at a time to read to her. When she was 2 1/2 during my last visit, she wanted to bring me a stack of six large books. The bottom one kept dropping off but she didn’t give up and made several tries. Finally she had a good grip of all six of them to bring to the couch! We also found her holding things with both hands plus one between her teeth! She has a good start of multitasking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 27 tabs, Miriam!?!?!? OMGosh, my head is reeling just thinking about that.

      I have oodles of tabs open on my day job, but as I type this comment (at home) I only have six open. That’s pretty much standard for me when I’m not on the day clock. I keep thinking that when I’m able to retire I won’t have the amount of pressure on me as I do know. That I’ll have more time devote to social media, writing, blogging, etc. But most everyone I know who is retired is still feeling the same pressure, so I’m not sure what that says about my future.

      When I do certain things (like research) I use colored pens (much like you do for your notes) tomato certain things stand out. It helps when I want to find something a hurry.

      I had to laugh at the story about your granddaughter. She is either an earlier multitasker or she loves to hear stories. It sounds like she will definitely grow up with a love of books, LOL!

      Like

      • My granddaughter started reading on her own in her bedroom on the rocker when she was 15 months old, could be earlier than that, but I go by the earliest capture on the photos. For a while I was afraid she was a nerd. But she rides her balance bike better than boys of her age. When they go somewhere, she would take a whole bunch of books reading in the car. I sat next to her, she had all the books on her lap, and dropped them on the floor when she finished one by one. She got about 15 books memorized. She reads to her 4 months old little sister. I can talk about her reading all day long. 😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • I tried to bookmark some sites and click them off. After that, I could have 10 tabs open.

        As to retirement, I’m doing some semi-serious plus some fun things I put off when I was working. So I’m busier retired. My husband doesn’t have hobbies, so he watches a lot of TV. I don’t want to do that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I definitely won’t be a TV watcher when I retire, Miriam. Like you, I have lots of hobbies and too many things I want to do. I can’t wait for those days 🙂

        Like

  6. It is funny that in certain professions, we feel like we’re not entitled to make any mistakes. I still make my fair share, but I’m rather anal about trying to avoid them. When I was teaching, I once sent a letter home to my students’ parents about something, and I made a spelling error (I’m old enough that spellcheck might not have been around then.)😎 One of the parents wrote back and pointed out my mistake. (Apparently, the grammar police were around back in the dinosaur days, too.) Ever since then, I’m pretty careful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pete, I guess the grammar police just had a different method of follow through back in the day, LOL.

      I used to be very anal (my staff at work even used that word in describing me about how I wanted things done…though with fondness and humor, LOL). Today, I think I’ve gotten more slipshod, which bothers me. I used to think perfectionism was a fault, but now when I settle for less, I feel that is even worse. Ack! One of these days I’ll figure out the system and find a happy balance—or so I hope! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Great post! I can’t say how many times I’ve gone to repost a blog on Twitter and started doing stuff over there and forget I was responding to a blog…I can’t even watch TV if I’m not on my phone responding to something. I’m all for one thing at a time, though. And yes commenting and realizing after the mistakes I made in those few simple word is the worst. Although right now I rethinking my priorities of where I want to put the most energy. I will turn off my phone to watch a movie with my husband. Thanks Mae for a great topic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Denise, you sound like so many of us, constantly juggling notifications, social media, and open windows on our computer.
      When it comes to the stock market they say fear is a greater motivator than greed, and I think fear plays a lot into our constant need for social media….as if we’re not constantly there, others will forget about us.
      I guess we need to learn to set our phones (and laptops) aside more often!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Super post, Mae. I used to multitask in my work life. I recall times I was on a conference call, writing and answering instant messages, writing and answering e-mails, and talking to my boss on my cell phone. (oh yes the conference call was muted) This was an everyday occurrence. I was lucky not to send out one of those “Reply all – screw you e-mails” Now I work in a more linear fashion. WIP, E-mails, Blog post, other. That is my exciting day. Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’ve never been good at multi-tasking, so I can’t blame it on my old brain because my young brain bombed at it, too. I don’t have notifications for e-mail. I look at it when I’ve finished a scene and need a break before I start the next one. Phone calls distract me, but I work really well with distractions–I taught grade school before I had kids of my own. I’ve never met a kid who isn’t distracting:) And my husband pops in and out of my office at will, but as long as I’m only working on one thing at a time, I’m all right.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You sound like you’re handling things well, Judi. For most of my career I’ve been a multitasker. Part of that is my own fault. Instead of saying “No, I can’t do that now, I’ll do it later,” I just work it in with whatever else I have going on at the moment. But I do find myself (on the day job) getting irritated with distractions. When I’m writing at home, I rarely have distractions. Hubs does his own thing while I’m working. Raven (my cat) is usually the brunt of any distractions I might have.

      And I bet you had a LOT of distractions when you were teaching school, LO!

      Liked by 3 people

  10. I have to multitask at work. Employees need things, my boss demands things and always at the last minute, the phone is ringing, etc. I refused to do that during my writing time, but it’s an ingrained habit now. The only multitasking thing that has helped me is writing two stories at once. It gives me a chance to clear my head of plot problems and jump tales. We live in an era of “now.” That’s part of the problem. We can’t wait two weeks to answer an email. Decades ago, we might wait months to exchange ideas in letters.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You are absolutely right about living in an era of “now.” And it seems the faster we get at responding in “now time” the more demands there are for it. Pretty much a vicious cycle.
      I constantly multitask at work. When it comes to being home or writing, I try to cut down on that, but there is still so much to accomplish and only so many hours in which to get it done. I do like your approach to working on two stories at once. I still want to give that a try. You’ve been so productive that way!

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Are you, like most of us, plagued by too many distractions and too much multi-tasking? I highly recommend taking a look at Mae Clair’s interesting post today on Story Empire. I’ll bet you can identify! And I hope you’ll also consider passing it along so others can ponder this nearly-universal condition, too. Thanks, and thanks to Mae for a super post! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I think you’ve touched a nerve for all of us, Mae. Life today seems much more complicated than ever before, and we are bombarded with outside news and issues we have no control over, yet usually need to know at least something about. We have to put those in a special place so we can even begin the day’s tasks, but they’re still there, filling one corner of our brains and coloring our thoughts all day long.

    I used to be a champ at multi-tasking, but at my age that ability has slowed down to a crawl, like the rest of me. I make To Do Lists and set very sensible priorities, and then get distracted by something else, and forget to read them. GAH. I do tackle my email first thing every day, because for me, it’s like a ringing telephone. I must at least know that whatever is there isn’t an emergency. I can go through a couple hundred pretty quickly, as far as sorting them into things that must be taken care of quickly and things that can wait. (And even more things that can go straight into the virtual trash can.) But after that, it gets tougher as the day goes on, and I find myself becoming more and more scattered. Since I’m a person who doesn’t write well with any outside distractions at all (like tv or music or a husband in the next room), too many other tasks usually keep me from producing the word count I’m aiming for.

    After reading this post and seeing how truly widespread this problem is, I do feel inspired to take control. Right now. So I’m adding it to my To Do List for the day.

    😀 😀 😀

    Liked by 5 people

    • I find I don’t multitask as well as I used to, Marcia. The older I get, the more frustrated I seem to become with it. There was a day when I LOVED having eight things going on at once. Now it just gives me a headache.

      The amount of email you go through each day is staggering! I simply can’t imagine. I do try to read blog posts and leave comments first thing in the morning, but there are occasions when I get sidetracked. Like this week (and today). I’m on vacation so I haven’t done anything yet. Hopefully, later tonight, I’ll manage some time.

      When I’m writing, I don’t do well with distractions either. TV is an absolute NO, but instrumental music is okay. I just wish I could cut down my daily to-do list, but it seems for everything I cross off, three other items pop up. Gah! Like you, I would love to take control and find a system. One of these days, it’s going to happen for me. In the meantime—GO YOU!!

      Liked by 4 people

  13. I’m usually multi-tasking, even though I promised myself to make an effort to focus on one thing at a time. Honestly, it seems like I’m more productive when I do that instead of juggling multiple projects. It’s hard not to fall back into old habits. Time limits seem to work better for me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think I’m more productive when I focus on one thing at a time too, Teri. But like you said…old habits are really hard to break.
      I have a love/hate affair with time limits. I’m glad they work for you!

      Liked by 3 people

  14. I multitask, but only because there are only so many hours in the day and I have a lot to do. That’s a big factor. I think people became more loaded down with things, so the ability to do things one at a time got reduced. If you try then you never get to relax because a new task pops up faster than you can finish your list. This happens a lot in office settings where people are rated by speed of work and projects completed. Creates people who accept minor mistakes to reach the finish line.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good point about minor mistakes and office settings, Charles. Quantity over quality seems to be more the norm. I know a lot of business have cut personnel without cutting workload, so that usually means more for those who remain, hence more multitasking.

      In my writing life, no matter how much I cross off my list, there is always something new around the corner needing to be done. Like you said, there are only so many hours in the day!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. It’s very hard not to multi-task – to stay focused on one thing for the needed time. When I was a school counselor, the stress from having so many balls in the air overwhelmed by body and I developed two major health concerns at an unusually young age in a short amount of time. Now, I try hard to focus at least for an hour at a time on each individual task. Notifications do tend to distract but I either turn them off or make an agreement with myself that I will check things at certain points. It’s definitely a work in progress.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tessa, the fact that you recognize how to work around the problem (checking different things at certain points), is progress. It sounds like you had too much pressure and stress in the past. Stress can do horrible things to our bodies, physically, mentally, emotionally. There are times I want to toss in the writing towel, but they’re usually days when I have too much going on and am feeling overwhelmed. Like you, I’m attempting to make progress as well. It’s an ongoing battle, but every step counts!

      Liked by 3 people

  16. I “try” to multitask and don’t do well. I’m getting better at eliminating distractions, but if an email or social media notice pops up, I tend to get sidetracked. I regularly converse with friends through a couple of social media platforms and it’s hard to resist responding immediately.

    If I stick to one thing at a time, I tend to accomplish so much more. But even this weekend, as I was working on my WIP, I kept sidetracking myself looking for photos for the book cover, designing a header for the book page, etc. And the first draft isn’t even finished. I do that when I’m stuck in the “messy middle.”

    Great post, Mae!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad you’re getting better at eliminating distractions, Joan. Send some of that wisdom my way, please!

      I know what you mean about social media, especially if you’re getting notifications in real time. Also, I had to chuckle about getting sidetracked looking for photos for the book cover, and doing design work. I do things like that too when the WIP is open and sitting in front of me. I’ll hit a snag and wander away down a rabbit hole, LOL!

      Liked by 3 people

  17. I do it constantly. I don’t think I did much of it before I had kids, but once my son was born, it was necessary. Now, they’re both self-sufficient adults, but I think I do it more than ever. There’s probably a study somewhere that shows it’s faster to do one focused thing at a time instead of several split-focused things at once, but I just don’t have the time to look for it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Staci, there are a number of studies that show precisely that. I read through several of them while writing this post, and they all agreed people on more efficient when they focus on one task at a time. Amazing considering most everyone multitasks. I wish we didn’t have to cram so much into so few hours!

      Liked by 3 people

  18. I sit at my desk, determined to write for at least an hour – then messages pop up at the bottom of the screen. Monday morning is when I scheduled some blog posts to arrive because I am following some bloggers who send out dozens over the week – sometimes thirty a day and I feel obliged to join in with tweets, shares, comments. I’m also a creative writing tutor for the local council (now a lot of my classes are over for the summer holidays but the time is being used by the council to put into place online lessons for the autumn term). And I’m putting off making a video talk for a lit fest. We’ve just had a lovely weekend with a visit from our daughter for the first time in four months – I’ve taken cooking, baking, all the things one does for these occasions, in my stride for years. But this morning I am totally stressed out. So I’ve discovered, rather than the organised person I I was, I am now a rabbit, hopping from one thing to another, And all I really want to do is write; work on my next book (Oh and promote my last one that came out just as lockdown started, and when I had book signings, talks and various other bookish events – all cancelled). So, Mae,your post came up just at the right time. We might expect ourselves to multitask but the expectation is only self- imposed.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Judith, your comment was a perfect fit for this post because it shows exactly how we all juggle so much. Many times, we’re involved in what we HAVE to do, or feel is necessary to do, rather than what we’d really like to do. And we should never feel guilty about spending time with family, but I know when I’m at a get-together on a designated writing day, I tend to beat myself up about it. Even today, I’m actually on vacation (which is why I’m late answering comments), but I have an obligation to SE as well.

      I feel so bad for you with the book release. I had the same thing happen. I released a book just before lockdown and didn’t follow through on promo. And an author event I was supposed to attend was cancelled. Here’s hoping the coming months are better for both of us!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I’ve read all the comments here, Mae, and I think setting certain days aside for social media is the answer. I did start out doing that, by making Monday the day, but started following and supporting others, so that idea went to pot. But, knowing it’s a universal problem, and I’m not on my own helps. So I will go back to square one. Thanks for raising this issue. According to the publisher, my next book is coming out in February 2021 – different genre – so, hopefully, I will be able to chat about both, when/if the world regains some sort of normality.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve done the same thing, Judith….following and supporting more and more authors, and that takes oodles of time. I really want to be there for them, but it also cuts into my own meager hours.
        Fingers crossed 2021 is better.
        And my blog is open for promo should you wish to contact me: maeclair (at) Maeclair (dot) com 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I’ve been bleating on about the pressure I feel from commitments to social media (that give me great pleasure) versus the time it leaves me to do the things I love – such as the garden, family, friends and neighbours, and my own writing. Reading this has given me the impetus to actually tackle things. I’m going to put aside one whole day a week for all the online stuff and give myself wholeheartedly to the other things for the other six days. This means that I’ll only be visible on that one day a week on lovely blogs like this one and I hope you’ll still remember me! Thanks for giving me the nudge I needed. I already feel easier about things.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think that’s an excellent idea! I stay offline on the weekends (and most of Friday) and try to do the same thing. Those are the days I devote to my own writing and what I want to do. The downside is, I have a lot of catching up to do on Mondays, but it does help me re-energize. I think it makes sense to set aside certain days for oversells and other days for blogging and social content. I say go for it, and I’m glad my post helped!

      Liked by 3 people

  20. I’m one of those people who have 24 windows open at any one time (both on my screen and in my head) and I jump all over them. For example, right now, I’m typing this, I have a window open to a quote I just looked up for this post (which I’ll post here in a sec), another window open to the holiday I’m planning, another window to amazon, another to KDP, and another to a comedy series I’m thinking of watching but want to read up on it first. And in the background, an episode of Castle is playing in which I’m trying to guess whodunnit. 😁

    Anyway, the quote I was referring to is Charles Winchester from MASH who said “I do one thing at a time, I don’t very well, then I move on.”

    Damn I wish that was my motto.

    Liked by 4 people

  21. I used to multi-task a lot, especially when I worked as a nurse. These days, I have to set a time aside for each task, and only move on once I’ve completed that task. Like Jaye and Anita commented, I also have a time for social networking, answering emails, and all the other jobs I need to do in a day. My old brain would have a meltdown, otherwise. A great aid to this is turning off my notifications once I’ve done with emails, etc. Then I don’t keep getting interrupted.

    Great post, Mae 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Turning off notifications is a huge help. I have my social notifications switched off, but my email notifications are still on. I should probably do the same with that.
      I’m constantly juggling more than one thing at a time, but that way of working is getting old. I no longer thrive on it like I once did. When I was younger, I embraced pressure happily. Pile it on, and I was gungho. The problem with that is that you eventually burn out. These days I need to get a better handle on things before that happens!

      Liked by 2 people

  22. In my mind, I reached the word ‘prioritise’ way before you did, as that is the only way I can control what my ancient brain can handle. Especially when writing or creating.
    I like to tackle all of the social networking in the mornings, leaving me the rest of the day free…

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Women are supposed to be good at multi tasking and we are, but I think nature only intended that for the domestic setting long before we went on line, not to also encompass work, writing and social media!

    Liked by 3 people

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