Now on to something else that’s been on my mind: multitasking. I’ve written about it before and I’m going to recap a bit again, but also discuss some new thoughts as well, including my Clear October list.
Lately I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been focusing on preparing for my next course to start (I teach at a local University). This weekend, we had a lot to do. Lincoln had a fall festival at school, I wanted to read some articles and go visit the library to do some research, I was planning on meeting up with some other teacher bloggers for the evening, and I hadn’t seen my husband all week because he was traveling. Not to mention, I wanted to blog and focus on ordering some holiday things for the C. Jayne Teach shop. Of course, I tried to multitask. I was reading articles at the library and texting people to meet up. I was hanging out with Eric and Lincoln at the festival, but my mind was on the shop orders and that’s when it hit me. Stop trying to multitask. It doesn’t exist and you know that.
See, I hate the word multitasking. I always have. I made this graphic above feel very dreamy because I think that’s what “multitasking” is. A dream that we imagine ourselves in, doing everything at once and doing it well because isn’t that the only way we’ll be a good ____ (mom, teacher, spouse, friend, etc). As a teacher I always felt like this was something that not only existed but something I had to be good at. I had to run a small group, while talking to a student on the side, all while answer a parent email. And I actually tried that! We all know how I reformed my email policy, but even after that, I still “multitasked”. But I really wasn’t. Because it doesn’t exist. You cannot do two things (or more) at once. You are either doing one thing or another. I was either giving my attention to the students in my small group or I wasn’t. I was either teaching a lesson or answering an email. I was either collaborating with a colleague or checking Pinterest. Or in the case of this past weekend, I was either spending time with my family or I wasn’t. Seriously. You. can. not. do. both.
It wasn’t until I heard Lara Casey say this exact statement to me last October that I realized, it was okay to feel this way. At some point of trying to do multiple things at once, your attention and focus have to shift. As a teacher and now as a mom, I’ve had to realize that I have to devote my attention to one thing at a time. When I am playing with Lincoln, I am not answering email. I am not scrolling Facebook or Instagram. I am not talking on the phone. I am being present as his mama. Sure, there are times when he plays by himself and I talk to my sister on the phone or I scroll through my Insta-feed. But I recognize that I’m doing one thing and he is doing another. Regardless of your role, teacher-parent-administrator-spouse, don’t you want to be present in that role and be great in that role? I do. This was a big a-ha moment for me once I realized that the “multitasking” had to stop. But especially in the classroom, I think we tend to feel like it we don’t try to multitask, then we’ll never “get it all done” – right? Let’s try to sort that out here and now.
This month, Lara is talking about Clear October (go follow her on Instagram @laraacasey – she’s such a light and inspiration in my life). She’s focusing on those things that help “clear” your life this month. I know, you have a million things to do and a million things running through your brain at once (at least if you’re like me you do). But I’ve had to make a conscious effort to focus, both now and during my time in the classroom. What I found was that when I was trying to do a bunch of things at the same time, none of it was done well. When I stopped and focused on just one thing at a time, I realized that I was able to (for example) finish the small group more efficiently, meet the needs of my students, and still have time to plan for our next meeting. The same thing happened after I established my email policy. When I wasn’t trying to hastily write an email in between a math and a science lesson, I was able to concentrate and compose a more thoughtful and meaningful email to the parent or colleague. My students also knew that I would only be doing one thing at a time. I had implemented an “ask 3 then ask me” rule, so that if they had a question when I was speaking with another student or another adult, they had to ask three other friends to find the answer first. If they still needed to speak to me, they had to wait until I was available. After about a week or two of turning them away when I was busy, they got the hang of it. It also made each question they had to ask me meaningful and purposeful.
So in the spirit of #clearOctober, I’m making my clear list. Things I’m going to focus on and dedicate time to.
My challenge to you is to make your own #clearOctober list and join in Lara’s movement. And take time this month to re-focus on what is right in front of you. Most of you are on fall break now or will be soon, so use this as a re-charge. And don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have moments, especially as educators and moms when we feel like we need to “multitask”. But next time you get the urge, take a deep breath and focus. Happy Clear October!