Friday, November 19, 2010


By Heather

I’m not sure when it happened. That I turned from a competent multi-tasking woman to…someone who's not. Somewhere between raising three kids, writing books, keeping house (not well, but still) and doing all the ordinary everyday things, I’ve changed.

I’m scattered. My short-term memory is history. Kaput. Gone fishing with its buddies, focus and motivation.

Now I’m lucky if I can walk and chew gum at the same time. It takes all my concentration to work on any one task. For example, if I get a phone call—everything must stop so I can focus on what the caller is saying—or I lose track. Don't get me wrong--I still get everything done--it just takes much longer than it used to.

I realized just how bad my focus has become when it was pointed out to me that my voice mail on my cell phone wasn’t working. I hadn’t noticed. That’s not the worse part. When I called AT&T for help, the nice man on the phone (great customer service, btw) told me my voicemail box had been disabled (techno issue) since…wait for it…April.

Yeah. No wonder I wasn’t getting any messages with all those missed calls.

So, I’m not altogether sure why this is happening. I blame getting older. And having three kids (nothing saps brain cells faster than kids). But what I want to know is how I get back to my multi-tasking self. Any thoughts? I’ve already started playing more brain games—word games, specifically. Word searches, Scrabble, crosswords.

Do you think there’s any hope for me? Has this happened to any of you?


Unknown said...

Heather, you shouldn't even TRY to multitask. (Although I haven't been quite able to give up trying myself.) There was an article in USA Today just last week that said that the brain can't handle it and it really is more inefficient than focusing on one task at a time.

That said, women just have more stuff in their lives than men--especially if they have kids.

I say have a glass of wine or a a nice hunk of chocolate and forget out the multitasking. Except when it comes to the Cozy Chicks, of course.

KH said...

Step back. Why are you trying to do so much at once? Your brain is simply telling you to slow down and do one thing at a time -- and well. What is really important to you?

Heather Webber said...

Hmm. I always feel like I should be getting more done than I actually get done. How do I shut that off??? If I can do that, I'm home free!

Sheila Connolly said...

Now why does this sound familiar?

I've been in the same boat recently, but I blame it on Crime Bake. In the weeks leading up to it, I kept waking up in the middle of the night after a dream where I'd completely forgotten to do something like post a blog (one was supposed to be about Benjamin Franklin).

I have to say that now that Crime Bake is over, my mind is much more focused, and my to-do list is significantly reduced. Maybe you could sell your kids? (Just kidding.)

And I've taken to doing the NYT Sunday crossword puzzle, as a benchmark. When I can't do that, I'll know I'm losing it. (P.S. Did you know that they've used the Agatha award as a clue answer--twice this year?)

Shelley Shepard Gray said...

Heather, I've never been a great multi-tasker, but I have noticed that I've slowed waaaayy down. What used to take me minutes (fold and put away a load of laundry) can now take almost thirty minutes. My cure? Get up earlier, and do things in spurts.
And don't worry about the phone...I'm sure there's a mile-ling list of things I'm not even aware I'm not doing! Happy Thanksgiving!

karmstr112 said...

I've noticed I can't handle as many tasks as I used to. This past year has been horrible and I'm just not as together as I usually am. I've forgiven myself for not being able to get as much done as I normally can and just muddle through the best I can. And that's ok with me right now.

Among the crappy things this year was my dad being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Some of the brain teasers that have been recommended are Suduko & especially the game Concentration. I tend to play along with him, so it's helping me too.

If your feeling scattered it could be your brains way of telling you something is out of whack in your life. Take some ME time & see what develops.

CindyD said...

One thing that might help is to make a to-do list, prioritize it, and don't worry about the items on the bottom of the list that you don't get to. Another thing that really helps is exercise. I'm ready to quit when we go out for our sunset walk and can get a few more things done after it.

Maggie Sefton said...

That scattered feeling comes to all of us. What I do is make lists, paper lists for the week with columns, believe it or not. I transfer stuff from daytimer & then add more stuff as need arises (phone calls/emails), etc.
That helps to keep me focused on what I need to get done each day.

But I do agree with Kim's comment above. Sounds like you need to take some meditative quiet time (no phones, no distractions) and let your thoughts settle, see what comes up. Give it several minutes. Another technique is to grab a spiral notebook and start writing down your thoughts, keep writing, & something usually bubbles up. You'll recognize it. I promise. :)

Dru said...

I don't do as many things at the same time as I use to. Now I need a list to check items off as I go.

Eating a Hershey's kiss is an enjoyable break.

Laineshots said...

Oddly, falling on my head taught me to be organized. I was in rehab for two years, and they taught me to (MADE me) use an organizer. What I remember most is "Write it down. Get it out of your head! Then, tell yourself you must do three things. Just three. Start with the task that's most appealing. Of course, that makes it easy to start, and by the time you've done three, you're feeling better and want to keep going--so you do. Often you find that much of what you've written down really isn't necessary. We women do tend to put too much pressure on ourselves, and our brains just can't keep up. Even computers have a limit!

Michele L. said...

Hi Heather,

Don't feel bad, this happens to all of us. I feel overwhelmed and stressed out lots of times and my memory suffers because of it. When that happens I take time for my things that make me happy. Watch tv, make cards, (I love to be creative!), go to my favorite store, hang out with my best friend.

Also, eating blueberries helps your memory. I eat plenty from time to time, along with drinking the juice and it really seems to help!

Most of all, get your proper sleep. Lack of sleep, really impairs your memory. Good luck!

Bettyann said...

Dear Heather welcome to menopause...I am able to to do one , maybe two things at once..I make lists, then loose the list and laughing does help...we change and slow down...

Heather Webber said...

Thank you! Lots of great ideas. I used to hate lists, now I can't live without them.

I did try to take a bath the other night without a book. Just me and my thoughts. I lasted five minutes--I need to work on that!!! Exercise will probably help, too. As much as I don't like that "E" word, I'm willing to try just about anything. :)

Vickie said...

Huge fan of lists. I try to not have too many things going on at once, but I surround myself with calendars to keep track of what I can.
I'm not sure I like being alone with my thoughts. I listen to audiobooks on my commute for work, tunes on the treadmill, read a book on the recumbent bike, play on the computer while watching TV.

I love word games. Bookworm is my favorite and I have asked Santa for a Nintendo DS so I can play more games. A shiny red DS....with lots of games...

Barbara said...

I was forced to slow down and pace myself when I got COPD. If I try to multitask, I get breathless and very tired. It was maddening at first, but now I have happily adapted to concentrating on one thing at a time and I'm positive I'm accomplishing things more successfully. Your brain just can't handle so much at once - wish I could convince drivers wedded to their cell phones of this fact.