4 Ways to Stop Multitasking and Get More Done

Most days, I feel overwhelmed trying to tackle my to-do list.  Budget.  Pay bills.  Send thank you cards.  Make appointments for the Squish and the Hubs.  The list goes on and on.  I may be “just” a stay-at-home mom, but I often feel more like I’m running a small business.  In fact, I half-jokingly put my career on Facebook as “CEO”, but there’s a lot of truth to that.

I want so badly to everything done, which makes me think I should multitask.  I pay bills while I eat, I make phone calls while making food for the Squish, I try to do multiple chores at once.  I do it thinking it’ll help me maximize my time during the day, but it never ends up working the way I think it will.  At the end of the day, I’m exhausted, overwhelmed, unsatisfied, and, worst of all, I’ve missed opportunities to connect with my husband and my son.

Frankly, I’m tired of living in a state of perpetual distraction.  I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to stop multitasking and to be more present during the day.  It’s made a huge difference.  Taking things one at a time has made it so I not only get more done, but I also feel more peaceful while doing it. Win-win.  It’s still sometimes a struggle, but as with any good habit, it just takes time and consistency to maintain.

Here are some of the ways that have worked for me as I’ve tried to kick the habit of multitasking.

  1. Make use of timers.
    Once the Squish goes down for a nap, I write down the things I’d like to accomplish before he wakes up and my approximate time for each.  Then I set a timer and do those things.  When the timer goes off, I have to finish what I’m working on and move on.  I’ll admit, sometimes this is really hard for me, but it’s so worth it.  It means that during the time the timer is on, I know the task at hand is the only thing I’m allowed to do.  I don’t have to worry about the things I’m neglecting because I have a solid plan to get to them later.  Timers are also great for busy days to make sure I’m still connecting with the Squish.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed with chores and he’s being needy, I can set a timer for 20 minutes and just play without stressing out.  I find that doing this not only helps him, but it rejuvenates me by helping to put my to-do list in perspective and remind me who I’m doing it for.
  2. Keep a notebook nearby.
    One thing I struggle with is thinking about my to-do list while spending time with the Squish.  I think of all the things I have to do, and if I think of something, I worry I’ll forget it in the next few minutes.  The solution? Keep a pen and a notebook nearby to write down those errant thoughts.  Sure, you could do it on your phone, but I find this sucks me into a black hole of email/Facebook/blog checking.  An actual, physical notebook works better for me.  This is also an excellent way to help you sleep if you have the issue of your mind running a mile a minute at night: just keep it by your bed and whenever a thought comes that threatens to keep you awake, write it down and take care of it tomorrow.
  3. Keep your phone on the charger.
    I know.  This is a hard one.  But take that phone, plug it into a central location (for me, the kitchen), and turn up the ringer so that if something is essential, you’ll hear it.  This helps me stop the constant checking, checking, checking even when nothing is really there and to focus on what really matters.  I love that it forces me to really think about whether I need to look at my phone or if I’m just doing it out of habit.
  4. Give yourself fewer tasks each day.
    I used to have running to-do lists with everything I needed to get done in the near future.  It worked well for a few days, but it always eventually left me feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.  Here’s a dirty little secret about to-do lists.  Ready? They will never be completely done.  There will always be something more to do.  This is especially true as a mom.  If you’re striving to get your to-do list completely done every single day, you’re going to burn yourself out.  The trick I use for this is to give myself a list of 3-5 must-do tasks each day.  I usually plan and write these out the night before in my planner.  I find by doing this, I get so much more done.  I help guarantee my own success ahead of time by giving myself a more manageable chunk.  Some of these tasks are small, some are big, but when I get a list 100% checked off, I feel so accomplished.

It can be really hard in the busy world we live in to slow down.  It’s so worth your mental health to work on taking your day one task at a time, and your family will thank you for it.

What’s a bad habit you’re trying to kick?

Great tips on time management and how to stop multitasking! I'm so bad about trying to multitask when I have a bunch of projects and it makes me WAY more overwhelmed.

About The Author

Leah

I’m a twenty-something LEO wife and stay-at-home mom to a one-year-old little boy. I enjoy writing, reading, taking my son for walks and runs in the stroller, and crafting. My goal is for Love and Blues to be a resource for first responders and their families. I write about marriage and family topics, as well as about the quirks that come with being married to a man in law enforcement, firefighting, or emergency medical services.

  • Physical notebooks work best for me too. Lists are my life and keep me on track. And timers are amazingly effective! It’s amazing how much you can get done in a certain amount of time – when you’re timed intentionally!

    • I’m glad it isn’t just me that sticks to good ol’ pen and paper! It took me a bit to get in the groove of blogging because I wasn’t used to composing on a computer. I still have to print my posts if I want to proofread!

  • This post is very timely! I have shiny-object syndrome so I try to keep myself organized and multi-task. I work with my laptop next to my desktop and iPad. I keep my cell and home phones within reach. I use a trio of notepads to keep myself focused. But still…two Amazon boxes that just arrived are calling my name. They want me to walk over there and open them up! But I’ve been thinking about water. Which brings to mind the thought of watering my little plant, which makes me think of getting up to recycle my water bottle, which reminds me that I need to unload the dishwasher. And speaking of water, I really need to purchase a new swimsuit. Yikes! I better re-read your post again right now…

    • Yes to “shiny object syndrome”! It’s okay, it’s a process. I’ll be great for two days, feel way better, then go right back to all my old habits. I’ve actually been REALLY bad about it today, and having posted this I feel so much more pressure to do better! Accountability is great.. But also sucks sometimes 😉

  • Timers are the best! I recently started using them more and it was the best decision!

  • Good ideas especially smaller list. I tend to accomplished nothing when my list is too long

  • def needed to see this today! great ideas that i will try to implement asap! http://www.heartofchic.com

  • Yes yes yes! Love these tips (I always have a game plan for nap time too!)

    • I definitely have to have a game plan for nap time or I’m totally unproductive. Haha.

  • These are great tips! I am totally needing this, I’ve been so non productive lately. Thanks for sharing!!

    • I’m so glad they helped you!

  • This is exactly how I feel. I often feel like a failure because I can’t get everything done. I have four children and often “clean” does not last very long. I actually was a working mom up until this year, and never figured out how to balance everything. I’m still trying to figure it out. Now I am a blogger, and still have the same struggles. I have used the timer before, and it works well. My thing is I get into a routine for a few days, then somehow I get out of the routine due to some reason ( a sick child, husband off from work, or I get sick).

    • Yes! I go through the same thing. I get in a groove and then I get thrown off (and now all I can picture is Kuzco from the Emporer’s New Groove: “you threw off my groove!”) It drives me nuts. As far as cleaning, I just try to do a deep clean (or “deep clean”) of each area once a week. It only looks clean for like, 2 minutes… But at least I know it’s clean under all the Cheerios right?
      I’d almost argue that working at home makes it harder to balance than working outside the home. I’ve never done the latter as a mom, but it just seems harder to split/prioritize your time when work follows you everywhere!
      I’m also by nature inflexible, so when my plans get detailed I have a bad habit of ditching them altogether. Like tonight. I was going to spend the two hours until the Hubs got home cleaning. Instead, I grumped around while watching Daniel Tiger with a little boy who decided it was party time not bedtime. Once he went to bed I was too annoyed that my grand plans got cancelled to do even a sliver of it. It’s hard! So, solidarity, sister. Keep on keeping on; you’re doing great.

  • I love timers and lists. Keeps me on schedule too.

  • I’m doing a TON of extra work when I get home from my day job each day to try and help my family’s financial situation. Unfortunately, this means I’m always thinking about thing that I’m writing, new pitches to submit, sites I can go to find statistics, etc… My mind is always buzzing and it never stops. And, I’m able to spend less time with my husband, so that when we are able to talk, I’m not always 100% there.

    I’m trying to train myself so that during our conversations I stop, focus on him, and leave everything else that I’m thinking about on the back-burner for a bit. It’s a bit of a trick and I’m trying to get better, but it definitely makes me happier that I’m not totally neglecting him!

    • Yes! Stopping the mental noise is one of the hardest things for me. I can stop physically multitasking but my brain sometimes refuses to quit. If I can figure out how to limit that I’ll be solid!

  • Leah, these are great suggestions for overcoming feeling overwhelmed and getting stuff done. I really need to implement keeping a notebook handy. I think my issue is I have multiple notebooks and I always have this internal battle of which one is going to be my “dump” notebook. That is sad but so true. Confessions of an office supply addict, haha. Thanks once again for linking up with us over at #lifeislovely 🙂

    • I completely feel you on that one. I love office supplies, too. I can literally spend an hour choosing the “perfect” notebook. I have friends that have waited for me to feel all the papers, look at all the covers, and leave empty-handed an hour later, as well. It’s a problem!

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  • Stephanie Erb

    This is exactly my issue. Thank you for reminding me of some tips that I always forget. It was a new years resolution for me to try to slow down and do one thing at a time.