Doing One Thing at a Time

Children are experts at knowing when you’re not really paying attention. Just try to multi-task while a four-year-old is showing you something, and you’ll see what I mean when they say, “No, look at me! Don’t hold anything in your hand! Don’t look at my sister! Look at me!” Little kids are not willing to budge an inch when they’re displaying a new talent or performing a song they learned at preschool.

This insistence on my full and undivided attention is sometimes a problem for me as a parent. I am very easily distracted. I have a hard time sitting still and focusing on one thing. My mind is full and busy. I am constantly thinking, thinking, thinking. I think about what I have to do next. What I forgot to do yesterday. What I should do next week. I think about where that missing puzzle piece could be, and when the last time was that I washed my son’s sheets. I think about that new sewing project I want to start.

The more that I think, the more fidgety I become. It’s not that I don’t want my children to know that I’m there for them. Of course I want my kids to know that. Rather, it’s that I want to be there for them while also doing other things. If I can answer a quick text message from my husband, pick up some scattered toys or write out a few post-dated cheques for daycare while I listen, so much the better. They’re not having it, though, and so we have a conflict.

As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I’m working hard to live in the present moment. This means that, for once, my goals and my children’s goals are aligned. I want to learn how to do just one thing at a time, being fully present in that moment. The truth is that I find this way of being more relaxing, productive and nurturing.

My daughter didn't learn to hula hoop by multi-tasking

My daughter didn’t learn to hula hoop by multi-tasking

When I’m washing the dishes to wash the dishes, rather than trying to wash the dishes just to cross it off my to-do list in order to do 15 other things, I enjoy it more. I also work faster, because I’m actually thinking about what I’m doing, instead of thinking about everything I’m not doing. I feel present. I feel grounded. I feel less stressed out.

In our busy, busy, busy world, we’ve all become expert multi-taskers – or so we think. I’m no different. Unfortunately there’s actually research that shows that multi-tasking has many downsides. For example, multi-taskers are not able to sort information into what’s important and what isn’t. When you’re constantly switching from one task to the next, your brain just can’t filter as well. It deals with whatever’s coming at it, whether it matters or not. When you’re multi-tasking your productivity drops, and you don’t perform as well. Plus, you’re stressed out, from all the stuff you’ve got going on.

This is why I’m trying to just stop it with the multi-tasking already. I want to do only one thing at a time. Of course, this isn’t always strictly possible. Just try driving a couple of little kids around in a car and you’ll see what I mean. Even so, I think it’s a worthwhile goal. I also think that the only way to make it happen is to just do it. If I keep waiting to be less busy, it will never happen. Paradoxically, though, I think that if I focus more and multi-task less, I’ll actually get more done. Plus, I’ll feel better doing it.

I’m working at it. I’m not always good at it, but I’m working at it. If you’re a reformed multi-tasker yourself and you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!

I was inspired to write this post for the 10 Week Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival hosted by Prenatal to Parenting. This week our participants have written about Practicing Presence.. We hope you enjoy this week’s posts and consider joining us next week when we share about a week of Developing Positive Self-Talk.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Sweet Sleepy Time– Sarah from Prenatal to Parenting realizes that by focusing on all the things that she ‘could’ be doing she was missing out on what she ‘was’ doing.

Week 5 Practicing Presence – Jennifer from Children’s Directory finds it’s easier to practice presence when there is no Wi-Fi available.

Being Present – Peaceful Parenting Challenge – Week 5 – Katrina from Kalem Photography learns to listen not only with her ears but also with her heart.

Practicing Presence – Ricky from Daddy Blogger has a wonderful time waiting for the ferry.

Week 5 – Remain present – Amanda from Sticky Hands has got this presence thing nailed.

KICK THE PANTS! – WEEK 5– LISTEN UP WILL YOU? – Kathryn from Curiosity and the Kat finds it ironic that she’s learned all this before.

Being present can bring great gifts– Lolly from My Journey Home feels she still has some work to do.

Doing One Thing At A Time – Amber from is looking for tips on how to stop multi-tasking.

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