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The Art of Single Tasking

When you become a mom, it just becomes second nature.

We do it when we’re cooking meals, we do it when we’re getting the kids out the door, we do it when we’re on the phone, and we even do it when we’re in the shower.

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about multitasking.

Image via Shutterstock


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On any given morning you can find me making at least two (but often three or four) different items for breakfast while catching up with my husband, playing cars with my son, playing some sort of role in my daughter’s latest “play”, and possibly even glancing at an email that I should have returned three days before.


Then there’s the quick work out that also includes some role-playing while Tweeting and feigning interest in the latest episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  And…a very quick “shower” interrupted several times for reasons such as squabbles, hard to open toy containers and general questions about trucks and cars.


I’m no different than any other mom out there.  We’re all doing it.  We’re all trying to accomplish too many things in too little time.  We are running ourselves into the ground.  Many of us even wear it on our sleeves.  Many of us consider it a source of great pride.

A recent study indicates that multi-tasking is actually not productive and adds a considerable amount of stress to the day.  In essence, it’s lose-lose.

Did you know that, on average, it can take up to thirty minutes to get back on track after an interruption?

If productivity on a single task faces a sharp decrease with an interruption, I can’t imagine what happens when I’m attempting to do four things at once.

This particular study suggests that I’m probably not completing any one task particularly well.  It’s kind of like that old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none”.  I’m getting things done, but not to the best of my ability.

I don’t know about the rest of you busy moms out there, but I’ve seen evidence of this in my day-to-day life.  Sometimes I do forget about the bagel in the toaster, the wet laundry in the washing machine, or the checks that need to be reordered.  Just the other day I left the hose running in the inflatable pool until it overflowed.  Why?  I was finishing a blog post.

I have a new goal.  Effective immediately I propose that we bring back single-tasking.  Let’s make completing one task at a time a source of pride.  Let’s start focusing on one thing at a time.

As much as possible.  I am a mom, after all, and I have to be realistic.

Moms talk a lot about trying to find the right balance between parenting, marriage, work, friendship, exercise, and various other areas of life.  It’s not easy to do.

Image via Shutterstock


Breaking up the day into definable parts (as you probably do with your kids) gives you blocks of time to cook, return emails, make phone calls, do laundry, etc.

Make playtime, playtime.  It’s hard to focus on your kids when your phone distracts you.  Give them your attention during playtime and watch them thrive (and watch the whining decrease).

I’ve been criticized a few times for missing a text message or two, but by leaving my phone in another room I am better able to let go and just be with my kids.  I have yet to regret a missed text or phone call.

Involve your kids in the household chores.  Both of my kids love to help with laundry and emptying and loading the dishwasher.  It’s more time spent together while we get a few chores done.


Planning date nights and friend nights in advance ensures that you will follow through (most of the time, anyway).

Some mornings, when I’m trying desperately to divide my attention three ways while cooking, I wonder what my kids are really learning.  I don’t like the feeling that multi-tasking produces.  I don’t like the anxiety of wondering if I did what I needed to do.  I don’t like it when I think twice when my son asks me to sit and play cars.  The answer should always be yes.  Because missed playtime is something that I will regret.

I don’t ever want my kids to feel this way.  I don’t want this to be the new normal.

We are a generation of multi-taskers.  It’s who we are and what we do.

But the next generation doesn’t have to be.  The next generation can live a less anxious lifestyle and fulfill their dreams.

But it has to start with us.

We need to slow down and model a better way to cope with our busy lives.

We need reach one goal before aiming for the next.

We need to single task.

Who’s with me?

You may also like this ROUTINE FOR MOMS post:

morning back to school routine

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Jodi shaw

Monday 22nd of August 2011

In our house having a hubby with a brain injury and son with special needs, single tasking is something I had to learn to do over the past several years. I have allotted slots when I work I set the alarm so kids know when it beeps now it's their time for my full attention and I agree I actually get more done and so does my family when jobs and tasks are broken into blocks of time. We don't slow down enough as a society to smell the roses and appreciate all that is around us and because of that we often miss stuff! Great post!

Chris, 2 Flowers Learn

Saturday 20th of August 2011

Single tasking- a great aim. I am making a point of trying to do this for a little while everyday. It takes will power but I am winning!

New! Individual Vegan Brushes | Pure Anada

Friday 19th of August 2011

[...] multi-tasker!  In fact, I purposefully try to work on the art of single-tasking.   I read a great blog post on this topic over at “Mommy Moment” the other day.  Sometimes multi-tasking can be [...]

Jessie, Education of Ours

Friday 19th of August 2011

Being a mom, and then a mom of multiples who teaches, its hard not to multitask. I think that my brain has chemically changed to Mommy brain. Sometimes I forget about my coffee on the car roof and drive off, but I get things done! Once the kids are grown, I may be so very effective in my days :)

Great and entertaining post, Katie.

Practical Parenting

Saturday 20th of August 2011

Moms of multiples amaze me...but I know your teaching style, and I also know that you probably have amazing moments of single tasking during the day...even if you're not aware of it. It's part of what makes you the great teacher that you are :)


Thursday 18th of August 2011

Fantastic post! I used to think that multitasking was so *efficient*, until it started getting in the way of doing anything meaningfully. Now that I am a mom, I try to be in the moment. It's hard to do when there is such a huge list of "things that need to get done." But really there's just the one thing that *really* needs to be done, and that's spending quality time with my daughter and husband. (Which is probably why my house is a disaster. *Sigh* :-) ) Harder said than done, but such a great goal. Thanks for writing this!

Practical Parenting

Saturday 20th of August 2011

My house is never the way I want it to be, but the mess always reminds me that we had a great day :) Being in the moment is hard during these busy times, but always worth the effort