When Multitasking Is Good For You

We all hear about problem of multitasking, when we think we can get more things done by doing them simultaneously rather than in order. Some examples include checking email while on the phone, communicating on facebook while watching TV, texting friends when talking to a colleague, auditing a webinar while surfing the web, listening to our child while planning the next day’s to-do list, etc.

Our minds are not well designed to do take on numerous mental tasks at the same time. To grasp this concept better, imagine you will play music in your home, full volume, an all-time favorite song, such as Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. You then decide, at the same time, to play a high-school favorite from those crazy days, such as Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. Now, imagine this second song will play equally as loud and at the same time while we intend to enjoy both of these by forcefully ‘multitasking’ our thoughts.  Chances are the experiment won’t end well.

Another way to test if multitasking really speeds things up: Write down titles of four lists you will create. One list will be ‘what I want for Christmas this year,’ one will be ’15 different breeds of dogs I can name,’ one will be ‘everything I usually buy when I go to Staples office supplies,’ and the last one will be ‘my best specific memories of sports when I was a kid.’ Now, set the stopwatch. Write one item on each list, changing lists for each entry, until you have about 15 things on each list. Turn off the stopwatch.

Now, start again with fresh paper. Start the stopwatch, and stay with one list and one list only until you have your 15 things and then move to the next list and finish that one, and so on. Which experiment took less time?

When can multitasking work for a healthier lifestyle?

Being creative about healthy habits is a must in today’s time-crunched society. We say we have no time for healthy habits, we can’t make time for healthy habits, or we have no work/life balance because everything is work! So, to get to a healthier lifestyle, we need to be creative and use the right kind of multitasking to our advantage.

Where our minds cannot easily grasp numerous mental demands at the same exact time, as seen above, we can more easily manage mind/body integration. Downloading a webinar to the smartphone and listening to it while taking a walk, is an example. One client, a cardiologist, tripled up by taking a power walk at sunset near a beautiful golf course while listening to his beloved jazz music. On Saturdays he took his 3 kids to the public pool to get family time with physical activity, while his wife had a break back at home.

Instead of watching the entire soccer practice, Moms can take some of the time for a walk - getting the added benefit of some socializing as well. Another client, a teacher, switched her walking routine to Nordic Walking, getting an upper body workout into her routine without adding the extra time she would have needed for sit-ups and similar.

Take some time to observe the times of day when you are doing just one thing, and then think about where healthy multitasking using the mind/body combination (not mind/mind) would work for you. Pacing while talking on the cordless phone - it all adds up! Brainstorming is the place to start. Keep at it and watch your ideas get better and better over time.

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.