I was good at multi-tasking before I became a Mom. I could do my homework while I watched a Pats game. I could talk on the phone and paint my toenails. Hell, I could even walk and chew gum at the same time.
But when you're as pressed for time as I often find myself these days, multi-tasking isn't just a skill that's nice to have. It suddenly becomes a necessity, if you ever plan to accomplish anything for yourself. People ask me how I'm finding the time to write professionally, write fiction for fun, parent, cook, review all the DVDs in our collection one by one, do the laundry, and walk the dog. The secret is simple: I never do any one of those things, I do several at the same time.
A typical day in my house is filled with combination task completion. A movie plays on the TV (for me to review later) while Ellie plays on the floor with her hearing aids in, Penny eats her breakfast, and Mommy folds some laundry. When Ellie naps, I cook breakfast for myself while also cleaning the kitchen, making bottles, watching a movie, and opening the mail. By the time four o'clock hits, I'm pretty tired... but that's when my time starts.
When Mike gets home, the multi-tasking doesn't stop, it just takes on a new purpose. It's for me. Instead of passing out, as I always want to do, I grab my iPod and a pad and paper and go to the gym. Yes, I take a notebook to the gym. Why? That's valuable brainstorming time, my friends. My neighbors think I'm strange, jogging on the treadmill while jotting down haphazard phrases like "they look like sisters" or "why doesn't he want the hot chick?" Amazingly, I can always manage to read them later. You probably couldn't read them, but I can figure it out.
That notebook helps me jumpstart my writing for the night after Ellie goes to bed. When I finally sit down in a peaceful, quiet house and I'm the only one awake, that's when I write a movie review, while checking my email, balancing my bank account, formatting a query letter, and researching articles. I think my brain is happier when it's doing more than one thing at a time.
That's lucky for me, since my brain probably doesn't have a choice right now.