Funny but true story: The other morning I called my BBF while I was doing a quick tidying of the house. I had miraculously remembered that we’d discussed going out for dinner, and the idea of not cooking — even at 7:12 a.m. — was enough to motivate me to pick up the phone.
She was driving her son to school, and together I think we put together about one coherent sentence until my BBF pulled up to drop him off and made this shocking confession:
“I’m actually a half-assed multitasker. Do you mind if I call you back in two minutes?”
That made me LOL all the way through unloading the dishwasher as I realized that I had been handed a genius blog title. As I schemed about what I’d say in the post, I unloaded the dishes, finished scrubbing the pots in the sink, and was on to drying them – a perfect task to complete while yapping on the phone once my BBF called back (less risk of drowning your cell in a sink full of soapy water).
As we chatted, I finished patting down the pans and popped an English muffin in the toaster. The second we finished making our plans, the toasted went off as if on cue, I grabbed a fresh plate, and then… plopped my morning carb smack into a big smear of cold pasta sauce that decorated the dish.
Upon closer inspection of the items I’d just unloaded from the dishwasher, I realized that everything was caked with food and grime.
This wasn’t the first time I’d forgotten to run the wash before I unloaded it. In fact, I’ve done it twice now in the last few weeks, and that’s not all: I made a beautiful last BBQ dinner of the summer for my family, and then left the grill on all night to ensure it really is our last BBQ for a while, because who can ever remember to refill the propane? I’ve pulled out a load of wet laundry only to discover what I actually have is a handful of dry clothes splattered with blue washing detergent. And I routinely come home to partially made beds, milk that’s been left out on the counter all day, and open cabinets that may or may not have been filled with whatever was going in them. And of course pretty much every time I shop I leave the grocery store with $200 worth of goods… everything except the one thing I actually came in for.
While it’s obvious I could use a mental reboot, I’m not even sure that would even work any more.
And suddenly I realize that there’s nothing I’d like more than to be a half-assed multitasker. Beyond making me laugh, it also makes me feel better about the situation.
Modern life dictates that multitasking, which is supposedly worse than marijuana for your IQ, is a way of life nowadays. There’s literally no human way to get all the shit that needs to be done in a day accomplished UNLESS you attempt to do things simultaneously.
That said, study after study would tell you that if you try to do more than one thing at one time, your performance would undoubtedly suck. (That’s the clinical term, I’m pretty sure…)
And while there are exceptional outliers –David Strayer of the University of Utah’s psychology department calls them “supertaskers” — the bottom line is that even something as simple as talking on a cell phone and driving can make you just as blotto as if you’d downed a few drinks.
(Supertaskers are super rare, btw — if you think you might be one, just try this test from Stayer’s lab: http://psych.newcastle.edu.au/~ae273/GateKeeper/)
So what’s a half-assed multitasker to do, then? I do have a few suggestions I came up with while doing a load or six of laundry and simultaneously making breakfast (pouring bowls of cereal), lunch (PB & J), and dinner (crockpot beef stew):
Embrace your half-assedness: Once upon a time, I was a Type-A overachiever. And where did it get me? Have I won a Pulitzer Prize for writing? Solved climate changed? Cured cancer? Clearly none of the above, although I am blessed with an amazing family, have a nice place to live, a job I totally dig, and a bitch that comes when I call (sort of). We do what we can do, and remembering to be grateful for it is the least half-assed thing you can do.
Listen to the resistance: One of the reasons that some things we attempt to multi-task never truly get done is because there’s no spark on the back burner where we put them. So maybe there’s a task or two you can take off your plate and free your mind up, even just a little bit.
It’s OK to drop some balls: My BBF biz partner is a kick ass juggler. This is actually literal: the woman won the Gong Show — with a first-ever 10 from Rex Reed! — juggling and singing at the same time. Since then, everything the woman has ever done is the product of an incredible juggling act. (More on that in the weeks to come… we’re about to launch the latest, so check out www.facebook.com/findmeimyours) As a klutz with no hand-eye coordination, I’ve got some trepidation around having so many balls in the air. Thanks to my job, I’m learning to be OK with doing the best I can, knowing that I’ll drop a few balls here and there and rather than freak out, I just pick-them up and get back to it.
Half an ass is better than none: We certainly give other people points for trying — I can be pretty damn effusive seeing a sort-of made bed and the clothes picked up off the floor but jammed in drawers in my kids’ rooms, for example.
When in doubt, sit your ass down: When the frenzy that is multi-tasking really gets to you, there’s no shame in sitting one out. Go full-on teenager on everyone else’s ass by slamming your bedroom door, put on some soothing music (or none, depending on what soothes your aching keppie), and tune out the world, just for five minutes.
So if you see me unloading a washer full of dirty dishes or serving up beef stew that has no actual meat in it, just know that I’m indulging in a little half-assed multitasking. I’m no dummy, but sometimes the only way to move through a day is to do your best and leave the rest.