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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?