Multitasking is Not All Bad

Filed under: Expert Advice: Home Base

Some people don't believe in multitasking. Maybe they've read that doing more than one thing at a time is too taxing on our brains. Or maybe they're reacting because they wore themselves out trying to do two things at once -- and trying to give both equal mental focus. Certainly things like calling out spelling words, wallpapering a room, figuring out your income tax and a lot of other tasks call for undivided attention. But there are plenty of tasks that don't deserve our full attention -- and that's where multitasking makes sense.

Doubling up on tasks is smart and efficient when you fold two tasks of varied importance together. For example, teaching a preschooler to identify colors is important. Picking up toys is less important. Why not accomplish both at once by suggesting that you and your child work together and pick up all the red toys, then the blue toys and the yellow toys? Or take watching TV -- an activity that seldom merits full focus. Why not request that your kids tackle a more important task -- fold clothes, sort socks, brush the dog or reunite a basket of toys with missing parts -- during TV time? Even three-year-olds can fold washcloths and hand towels. They won't fold them just right, but that's okay. They're learning life skills about housework, time management, and collaboration -- way more important than a picture-perfect linen closet.

Multitasking can also include the work of two or more people working as a team. You can show your child how to strip the bed and take linens to the washer while you're changing the sheets. Or work together getting your backyard ready for spring: Young kids can wash off patio furniture while you tackle flowerbeds. Here are more two-timing tasks to consider:


During dinner preparation, teach elementary-age children that 1 cup doesn't mean a coffee cup and a teaspoon is not just any spoon from the drawer. They can also learn about safe use of appliances.

Set the table and unload the dishwasher at the same time. Remove clean dishes and place directly on the table.

Cook two or three meals at once. Clean carrots for tonight's pot roast, afternoon snacks, and tomorrow night's salad.

Clean the bathroom mirror and fixtures while tending your child's bath.

Have kids swish hands and feet around the water line during a bubble bath to loosen bathtub ring and make tub-cleaning easier.

Hang an outfit in the bathroom and steam away wrinkles while you shower.

While you polish furniture, your child can dust baseboards with sock-covered hands.

Encourage older kids to start a load of laundry before tackling their homework. When they stop for a snack, they can move the clothes from washer to dryer.

Get your family in the habit of never walking through the house empty-handed. Pick up as you go. If you're going upstairs, take something that belongs up there with you.

How has multitasking worked (or not worked) for you?

Kathy Peel is founder and CEO of Family Manager Coaching. www.familymanager.com

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.