Single-tasking helps you get more done with less stress

I tend to be more organized than my husband. If I were to let my ego get the better of me, I might start thinking this means I’m also more produtive than he is. I started giving this more thought a few days ago while listening to a local DC radio station. The host of the program said:

Moms, be more like dads. Don’t multitask. Dads just do one thing at a time and are more productive.

Naturally, I started comparing myself to my husband, and thought about how we both started our morning that day.

Deb’s activities:

Got up before husband and baby. Changed the baby’s diaper. Prepared bottle for the baby. Put client materials in the car. Put laundry in the washer. Washed coffee mugs. Showered. Started getting dressed. Removed clothing from the dryer (put in from the evening before). Folded clothing. Put wet clothes in the dryer. Filled dog bowls with food and water. Finished getting dressed. Did make up and hair. Wrote a note for the babysitter. Left for a client visit.

Husband’s activities:

Got up. Showered. Got dressed. Fed the baby. Packed up laptop. Left for work

As you can see, we both had vastly different mornings. Did you also notice that I did a bit of multi-tasking? Against my better judgment, I moved from one task to another, at times, not finishing one thing before starting the next (e.g., doing laundry before I finished dressing). I’ve read the studies about the negative effects of task switching. I know that trying to attend to more than one thing at a time makes you less efficient, and that people who multitask tend to underperform. It also can cause negative stress, which I certainly felt.

Why did I do this even though I knew better? The short answer is because I had lots to do. Truth be told, I added more tasks to my usual routine even though my schedule that day was not typical. I tried to get many things done so that I wouldn’t have to take care of them later in the evening. Still, there were other options available to me. Looking back on that day, I would have done things differently.

The next time I’m faced with a similar situation, I will:

  1. Create a reasonable plan for the next day and stick to it. I normally take a look at my schedule each evening to see what the next day will be like and make adjustments as needed. My forecast didn’t include anything extra because I had a limited amount of time to get things done, and I should have kept it that way. The laundry could easily have been done at another time. When there will be a change to your regular routine, decide on a realistic plan and schedule non-priorities for another day.
  2. Pause and assess what is important. I decided to do laundry that morning. This chore wasn’t a part of my master plan or essential to my day. Did it need to get done? Yes, but not then. We can often be reactive instead of being proactive when we feel pressured. As a result, we can end up moving too quickly without fully thinking things through. Taking a moment to slow down, to figure out what things need to be done will help stop you from randomly starting new tasks. At times like this, your schedule and/or to-do list will come in handy.
  3. Focus on one thing at a time. Had I given my attention to one thing and completed it before moving on to the next, I would have realized that I just didn’t have enough time to include any unplanned activities. Multi-tasking can negatively affect your ability to make purposeful decisions and you will expend more time switching from task to task. You can find yourself in the midst of doing many things at once and begin to feel overwhelmed. Instead, try your hand at single-tasking. Focus fully on one thing before proceeding to the next, and you will feel more calm and prepared to manage your remaining tasks, and ultimately, be more productive.
  4. Ask for help. This is often a simple fix and one that is frequently overlooked. I could have asked my husband to take care of the laundry before he left for work. It’s possible that I was too caught up in what I was doing to even remember that I had that option. Getting help from a friend, coworker, or family member can certainly make a chaotic day less stressful. If specific days are more hectic than others, you can arrange to have help on those days or partner with other available parents/colleagues/professionals, if possible.

Interestingly, though I was focusing on more than one thing, I seemed to get several things done. However, I can’t argue with the fact that I felt agitated, a side effect of multitasking. Was I was less productive than my husband on that morning? I could probably come up with a good argument that I wasn’t based on the number of things I did. However, in hindsight, I don’t think it was worth it in the end. The laundry was no worse for the wear, but my morning could have had a much better start. I didn’t need all that stress in my morning.

The next time you’re tempted to tackle many things at once, stop and breathe. Re-focus, check your list, and pick one item to start working on at a time. It may take a little getting used to, but in the long run, you’ll be pleased with how much you can accomplish and feel less frazzled at the end of the day.

43 Comments for “Single-tasking helps you get more done with less stress”

  1. posted by Kim on

    Great post! I’ve been thinking along the same lines lately. I’m gonna give single-tasking a try.

  2. posted by Jeannette on

    Love this post because it encourages mindful thinking and mindful choices based on where you are in the moment.
    And what you realistically can and cannot do.

    Sometimes, the issue at hand is larger than getting everything “done” and off a checklist (which, in some cases, is what drives a person, male or female; I know some multi-tasking men!)

    Sometimes it’s about how this affects you, and the people around you.

    From my experience, single-tasking not only tends to get stuff done on schedule, but it also is more efficient and the quality of the endeavor/action (and interaction) is generally much higher and better.

    Working with multi-tasking clients and colleagues is incredibly frustrating because their lack of attention and sole focus on an issue at hand generally creates problems down the pike (What? Wait. Did I say I would complete the project by X? I don’t remember that, said one staffer recently. Really, you were at the meeting and you said “Yes” maybe that was in response to a text?)

    I’ve found that people who single-task and FOCUS, tend to be higher achievers and also, generally speaking, a lot more calm and less anxious. This improves the general mood and contributes to a more pleasant and productive work environment.

    I’ve often wondered if we all multi-task because we’re simply too scared to deal with a reality: We can’t get everything done. Of course, everything does not need to be done. Multi-tasking is often an issue with people who cannot prioritize or are people-pleasers who can’t say no, especially to themselves.

    A lot of businesspeople seem to think that being able to multi-task makes someone a better employee. I would disagree as I’ve seen so many unnecessary mistakes made (that cost us a lot in money, time and resources later) when people were not paying full attention to a task at hand because they were multi-tasking.

    I think we all need to rethink what is essential and “how it should be” in both our personal (where we do have control) and professional (where we often have little control) lives. It would improve civility, productivity and our well-being.

  3. posted by Another Deb on

    I tend to multi-task because I am not prioritizing efficiently. Looking back on yesterday’s posts on working from home, I am distracted by a messy desk, so I clean the desk before starting work. Is this a priority or is it procrastination? Does the distraction of knowing that the dishes are sitting in the sink two rooms away outweigh the deadline I am facing and the amount of sleep I will need to be coherent the next day?

  4. posted by D on

    Not sure I see what you see. You got a heck of a lot more done than hubby, and don’t report leaving late. Multitasking is efficient if it uses time that can be layered, like running laundry thru washer while doing other chores, and swapping into dryer at a natural break in those activities. Getting dressed in stages makes perfect sense if you have a baby. You may not want to do hair and makeup, or put on jacket or work blouse if you have to feed/burp an infant, or play with baby before babysitter arrives to take over. Some tasks are best single-tasked, but this does not universally hold true, for efficiency or for getting things done, or for dealing with the average day.

  5. posted by Lesley on

    The laundry was the only thing you did that didn’t HAVE to be done, but it will have to be done eventually, and you’ll still be taking care of the baby and the dog. I’d like to see what your schedule would be like after a whole week of single-tasking. I doubt you’d get anything done! Multitasking is de riguer for moms, particularly those that work out of the house.

    My husband’s idea of multitasking watching picture in picture on the TV.

  6. posted by Joan on

    Long time reader, first time commenter. And single mom of a four year old.

    It’s not that I think you’re wrong about how you could have made this morning simpler & easier, but when I see that comparison between your tasks and your husbands, the first thing I think is NOT that you are doing a bad job planning, single-tasking, or assessing. It’s the idea of “help” from your husband, who also lives in this house and is also the parent of your child. Why isn’t he AUTOMATICALLY doing much, much more around the house in the morning? That is, I read this less as an issue of how you need to change than one of how he does (like most heterosexual parenting couples). That is, this is more of a social issue that we all need to face head on if we are to continue our current economic state of two-income families.

    Good luck!

  7. posted by Sue on

    I also don’t see how your morning was “multi-tasking” while your husband’s was “single-tasking”. The only task you split up was dressing yourself. Laundry isn’t exactly a task that can be “single-tasked”, unless you want to sit and do nothing while a load is washing or drying. That makes zero sense.

    You clearly accomplished a lot more than your husband. As you acknowledged later, you could have asked him for help but didn’t. And, as another commentor stated, this is very typical of an American family. The woman just does more than the man, and either doesn’t ask for help or the man simply doesn’t step up to help when he sees his wife rushing around. This isn’t a single or multi tasking problem, it’s an imbalance in the household chores and family rearing responsibilities. And, like so many American women, you failed to recognize the true problem. Instead, you blamed your frustration on multi-tasking.

    I also noticed that you washed the coffee mugs, but didn’t mention preparing or drinking coffee. You also didn’t say that you had breakfast.

    Sounds like your mornings would go a lot smoother if you didn’t try to fit in any extra tasks, like you did with the laundry. Just do what you need to do to get out the door. And make sure your husband is doing more for the child and for the house. I’m sure he’s perfectly capable

  8. posted by chacha1 on

    I also didn’t see any true multi-tasking, and also saw considerable imbalance between spouses. Familiar with that from my own home.

    I get up not much later than DH most days. I feed the cats (multiple small servings because I’ve got one that bolts and barfs), tidy up the kitchen and den, make a cup of tea, do some stretches, comb the longhaired cat, fix my breakfast (and sometimes lunch) to take to work, get cleaned up, dressed, and made up, and leave.

    Meanwhile he gets up, disappears into the bathroom, and does not come out until it is time to leave; which is often at the same time as I do.

    I am not “stressed” per se by my morning routine, because it is a routine. I know I can get everything done before I leave.

    But the evenings are similar – I have 5, 10, 15 things to do – while DH often gets home before me and does next to nothing for the household. So yeah … that part is stressful.

  9. posted by Alisha on

    I’m single, no kids, 1 dog, so I don’t have the same stresses that others have. I thrive on multi-tasking, which is a good thing, since all the housework falls on me. When I’m doing my regular weekend house chores, I’ll stop in the middle of dusting to put a load of clothes from the washer to the dryer and start another load.

    Then, I might move on to something slightly different instead of continuing to dust, like washing the dishes so the kitchen is ready to be cleaned later (I’m OCD, and I have to clean my house in the same order every time, otherwise I’ll either miss something or feel that I have), or I’ll change the sheets on the bed. Then, after the break in dusting, I’ll get going again.

    As far as multi-tasking at work, I have to. There’s phones ringing and emails chiming. And there’s the boss down the hall calling out. I’ve learned to tune out just enough so I can still be productive.

    And, I’ve got a home business that takes up a lot of my nights and weekends. Sometimes I’ll do the same with that. When I need a short break, I’ll start a load of clothes. That’s usually long enough for me to be more focused on what I’m working on. Then 40 minutes or so later, I’ll stop to transfer that load and maybe start another one.

    For gettting ready to leave in the morning, I do as much as possible the night before. I get my breakfast and lunch together, so that all I have to do is grab the bag and leave. My mornings are rushed, so I don’t have time for housework. I’m a night owl, which makes mornings hard sometimes. But every minute of my morning routine is devoted to getting ready to walk out of the door.

  10. posted by WilliamB on

    Leaving aside the question of who does what in the morning (and how does your husband feed a baby in work clothes, without getting them messy)…

    I don’t find doing tasks in the morning to be inefficient. It’s inefficient when I interrupt one task to do another, especially if it means repeatedly walking back and forth.

    What I should be doing is all tasks in the bedroom, then move stuff to the kitchen, then all tasks in the kitchen. What I actually do is intersperse bedroom tasks and kitchen tasks, walk back and forth. Still working on this one.

  11. posted by WilliamB on

    Overall I think multi-tasking is overrated. It’s really hard to do more than one thing with the same body part.

    So: cook and talk on the phone? Sure – conversation takes my attention, cooking doesn’t.

    Fold laundry while listening to a book? Sure – hands fold while my attention is on the book.

    Work on a document while on the phone? Nope. Both require my brain and my attention.

  12. posted by [email protected] on

    I so agree! When I try to do more than one thing at a time, I definitely get more anxious and agitated. I didn’t realize it until you said it in the article. When I’m doing one thing at a time (or a couple of things in the same family – like working on two dishes for dinner), I am much calmer. And I make fewer mistakes. When I try to do multiple activites, I’m stressed, rushed, drop things, etc.

    And you mentioned sticking to your plan. It’s when I veer off my from plan that I cause myself trouble. I make good plans so I should just stick to them!

  13. posted by Karen (Scotland) on

    Hmm, have to say this is about the first time I’ve totally disagreed with your example. It may be true that single tasking can be more productive in a work/admin environment or somewhere that requires actual concentration but domestic multitasking is the only way I get myself and the four kids out of the door in the morning. Husband is at sea – no choice in getting it all done myself.

    Nothing I am doing requires concentration – it just requires being done!
    Kids in bath and dry laundry being taken of pulley – check!
    Packed lunches and water bottles in bags while all 4 eat breakfast and drink milk – check!
    Check spare clothes for potty-training toddler in my bag while sink fills for dishes – check!
    Kids brushing teeth while I hang next laundry to dry – check!
    Bribe child to dry dishes while I gulp coffee and slurp the last of my porridge – check!
    Check everyone is wearing 2 matching shoes while I finalise mental To Do list for the next hour and check I have necessary money/vouchers/receipts/lists – check!

    You get the idea.

    My husband, when it’s his turn, gets up, showers, feeds all four breakfast and leaves at 8.30am (with much stress, shouting and, once, an insufficient number of shoes). I then get up and do all the stuff I would usually have achieved before 8am when he’s at sea. I’ve also usually made the packed lunch the night before. Very frustrating.

    He says he just CAN’T do it all as he gets “stressed”.

    I do get a “buzz” from a morning which starts me off on a good footing for the day. Is it stress or just adrenaline and satisfaction? I feel more stressed the days I do nothing but feed and dress the kids. Because I know all the other stuff is just waiting for me when I come home…

  14. posted by Kate on

    I find it interesting that so many of these comments talk about the number of things getting done. Deb didn’t seem to be concerned about how many things she did, or the order in which she did them. Her concern was about how she felt throughout the midst of it.

    Maybe single-tasking wouldn’t really let her get “more” done. Maybe it would just feel a little better to smile about the baby’s newest discovery while she’s preparing the baby’s breakfast, or take a second to pet the dogs while she’s feeding them, instead of worrying about the next thing – or the 3 other things – she’s got to do. Maybe the quality of how she feels is as important as the quantity of things she gets done. (That’s a lovely thought for the end of my workday.)

  15. posted by KAD on

    If your husband were doing all of that stuff, I wonder whether he would multitask. I’d love to see a followup column where the two of you tried it!

  16. posted by Lizzie on

    I’m a morning person and it feels right and good to be running around like crazy early in the day. The thing that used to make me crazy about multitasking was the feeling that something would fall through the cracks. So now, along with my first cup of coffee and email reading, I make a quick list of the things to do that I might forget. (And I even made a few index cards with pictures to put out the night before–trash day, school library, a medicine bottle for when someone has something to take.) And I, too, also have things that I do in the same order. I feed the dog, and while he’s eating I feed the crayfish. (Crayfish is a recent family addition and I worry about forgetting her.) After that, the dog’s ready to go out and I can be done with the pets. Likewise, I decided that while I make lunch for my daughter (and she’s eating breakfast) that I would totally be available to her for anything SHE wanted to discuss. (She’s eight.) Today we discussed what our Secret Agent names would be and quite a bit about skirt lengths.

  17. posted by Julie Bestry on

    I feel like Kate is spot on! The entire point of this was that multitasking — switch tasking from one to another and back again, from mommying to work to laundry to dishes to dressing to dogs to laundry to dressing to mommying to work left Deb feeling “agitated,” which, indeed, is a side-effect of attempting to multitask rather than complete one task at a time.

    I don’t have a child, but I do know that if I don’t do the most important thing I have to do *first*, and completely (i.e, shower, make-up, hair and dress), then I won’t be leaving the house on time. I can leave the house without the laundry being completed, but I can’t go to a client’s in my pajamas (or worse, unbathed)!

    Had she showered/dressed immediately after diapering/feeding, then she’d have completed the two sets of tasks that were the most essential and she’d known IF she’d have time to care for the dogs and do the laundry or if she’d have to delegate one or both to hubby. The point? Sticking to a plan and then single-tasking would have given her more sense of control over the situation, as Deb’s wise four steps pointed out.

    I really have to disagree with Lesley’s comment, because “doing stuff” without any sense of context for when it’s appropriate for your energy level, your time available or your personal needs is exactly what overwhelms people. It’s not about working hard, but working smart, and that means prioritizing and doing things when they best fit the plan, not just doing them to get them done. If all tasks were of equal importance, value, intricacy and difficulty, it might be different, but given the varying complexity of tasks accomplished each day, I think Deb’s exactly right re: planning and general single-tasking.

    (And seriously, how about the last one out the door has to feed the dogs?)

  18. posted by MixinItaly on

    The baby is also your husband’s no? Why doesn’t he deal with the baby and then you have a bit less to do?

    I honestly say, that if patterns are not set now, no matter how helpful hubby is, he will get used to not having to chip in with “your child”.

    Maybe we have to multitask because others do not help out enough. The laundry would eventually have to be done anyway, and I do the same thing most mornings. But I am adament about getting the other half used to splitting up the chores from the beginning.

  19. posted by ninakk on

    The brain does not multitask but jumps from thought to thought when the individual pretends to be more efficient that way. It is hurting productivity not to let it work the best it can perform.

  20. posted by Amanda on

    I have to say that for me, multi-tasking is both normal and efficient. I believe there is a difference between switch-tasking and serial tasking. I have had the recent experience of only being able to focus on one task at a time and was really frustrated!My morning consists of getting five children’s breakfast, making lunches (for kids, hubby makes his own from last night’s leftovers), cleaning the rest of the kitchen from the night before (might only be unload the dishwasher, might be more substantial), starting laundry, helping get kids out the door, etc. and I accomplish it in about an hour. If I’m up early, I bake or do extra things. To do these tasks one at a time is much longer. My hubby cannot do it and is frazzled if he has to do so. My kids are special (no gluten, no sulfites, some are low carb due to blood sugar issues) so we can eat very little prepackaged food and definitely no breakfast cereals. It’s busy, but it’s routine and that gets me through the morning while staying calm. There are obvious times for single tasking (large report due, equipment to work on), but with five children, single tasking would cause more stress to me.

  21. posted by Anita on

    I’m with Amanda – I don’t have kids, but I find that task switching is actually beneficial for me.

    Example: I’m writing a series of articles at the moment. I have a plan for them, but I’m rethinking it as I go, so while I’m writing one article, I might get an idea for another or change the flow of the series. Instead of staying on one task and having that idea get lost, I stop and write it down. My eyes get tired easily, so I have to take frequent breaks from the screen; instead of just sitting there staring at the wall, I get up and get something else done (get myself some water, for instance), then come back with fresh eyes. While I’m getting water, I might also put a couple of things away or pet the cats or wash a dish. I might not finish the articles as quickly as I would if I just sat down, let my eyes deteriorate and my brain wear itself out, but my series is better written for it, and I’m still sane at the end.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s the result of my generation’s shorter attention span, but my brain prefers variety and performs better in bursts than in long stretches.

  22. posted by Marrena on

    Well now, I must disagree. Pregnancy rewires the female brain specifically to make women better at multitasking. I suspect that is because childrearing and all the work that goes with it is done better with multitasking. Housework and watching children is not rocket science, and with children around one’s schedule is not one’s own, especially once those babies become toddlers.

    If someone is a rocket scientist or working on something that needs intense concentration and difficult mental work and creativity, then single-tasking will be more productive. But doing laundry or keeping an eye on a toddler does not require full focus; for those things or simply getting out the door in the morning, multitasking is more efficient.

  23. posted by WilliamB on

    @Marrena: “Pregnancy rewires the female brain specifically to make women better at multitasking”

    Source, please.

  24. posted by John Batt on

    I think it depends what you’re doing..if you’re doing something that requires ‘sustained thought’ like a piece of writing, I tend to think definitely, just concentrate on what you’re doing..

    I definitely think we’re all veering towards multitasking these days now though..I mean, we even have computers in our kitchens these days!

  25. posted by Tim on

    All the comments bashing husbands are a little unfair. It’s understandable that a woman might be frustrated by a man’s failure to “automatically” help with these things, but it’s not fair to assume someone knows what you want and then criticize them for not reading your mind.

    In many relationships, each gender has activities that are more natural for them. If we want both partners to participate in all tasks, then we need to embrace the fact that certain tasks take a bit more conscious effort for some people.

    Just as a woman may get upset that her husband doesn’t make dinner or get the kids ready, a man might get upset when his wife doesn’t change the furnace filter or mow the lawn. But if he doesn’t ask her to do these things, then he can’t get mad when she doesn’t.

  26. posted by Marrena on

    Here’s a link about that.

    If you want a more scholarly link, I can probably rustle one up, let me know.

  27. posted by Misha on

    “Moms, be more like dads. Don’t multitask. Dads just do one thing at a time and are more productive.”

    So, how do the childless go about doing things – or are parents are the only category of adults that matter?

  28. posted by Jonathan Scialpi on

    I agree. I used to be a full on multi-tasker and it just encouraged anxiety and led to unproductiveness. Since I became single-task oriented I not only get more done but there is so much LESS STRESS. LESS STRESS=BETTER WORK. ENOUGH SAID

  29. posted by WilliamB on


    Something more scholarly would be appreciated. Few journalists and editors manage to represent a study accurately.

  30. posted by Katie on

    I too have difficulty remembering that I can ask my husband for help when I feel overwhelmed. Instead I get up earlier, stay up later, and sometimes feel resentful that he’s plenty rested. Remembering that there is someone ready and willing to help if only I mention what I want/need help with gives me such a feeling of relief!

  31. posted by D on

    Julie….if you had a child, being able to fully dress or do nearly anything in one uninterrupted block of time would immediately become a thing of the past and you would either have to adapt to multitasking, hire or engage help, leave things undone, or feel anxious and stressed.

    There’s no absolute reason why multi-tasking means any of the jobs aren’t done well, joyfully or with appreciation. If an individual prefers not to multi-task….so be it. But saying it is more efficient, more engaged with the task or whatever else, to single-task…just ain’t necessarily so.

    Misha – the childless pick their preferred means of accomplishing what they need and want to do. They do have less constraint due to not having the needs of a dependent, but that’s about the main difference.

    WilliamB. The study was done by Laura M Glynn and Curt A Sandman, and published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

  32. posted by D on
    WilliamB, that’s the abstract, anyhow.

  33. posted by ninakk on

    An abstract doesn’t say anything about how statistically significant the test results are. There are many “scientists” out there who know nothing about proper statistics and they draw conclusions based on a study including five people or something equally ridiculous.

  34. posted by Marrena on

    Of course not, but it doesn’t look like the full paper is available online for free. I guess it depends on how much you trust the peer review process at the journal. Here’s a little more info on the journal itself:

  35. posted by Sue on

    Tim, I hope you don’t think I was bashing the husband in my comment. Because that wasn’t my intention.

    I’ve noticed the child care and home imbalances among many of my female friends at work. They spend their time at home doing things for their children and the house. Their husbands seem to find time to play video games, participate in a sport, or do other “recreational” activities. Meanwhile, the wives feel frazzled, stressed, and always in a rush. Not one of them has a hobby or recreational activity.

    So I asked the women about it. Every single one of them admitted to not asking their husbands to help out more. One even admitted to not trusting her husband to do things properly, even though he’s a capable and competent man. Another one had scheduled regular “daddy days” with their two girls on his day off (to save on childcare expenses), and spent the entire day fretting about what was going on while dad was in charge of the children. Can you imagine men worrying about how their wives were caring for their children?

    So when this topic came up, and the author blamed her stressful morning on multitasking instead of simply asking her spouse to help out more, I had to comment.

  36. posted by D on

    ninakk, it’s my understanding from other sources that the study is a literature review, so I’m not surprised that it doesn’t have the data you mention. While it does not show the statistics (abstracts tend not to do so, you are right), that alone doesn’t discredit the work without more information. I just posted the journal article that the story was based upon.

    Do you have anything to dispute the claim? That would be scientific of you….rather than just saying that some scientists aren’t good with statistics, based on no statistics at all other than some you made up on the spot. 😉

  37. posted by D on
    (the first also has a long list of “scholarly” articles in the footnotes, the second may be more accessible to a general reading audience) Have fun! There’s undoubtedly a lot more where those came from, and anyone who really wants the science of a claim would do well to use those powers of reasoning and critical thinking to go seek it for their own satisfaction level! 🙂

  38. posted by Lesley on

    Uh, if you have more than one kid, “single-tasking” is impossible and unrealistic.

    Finding joy and peace in your situation has a lot more to do with attitude and mindset, and a lot less with the actual tasks being accomplished. If you spend your morning resenting your husband, for example, you will feel anxious.

    There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking. Mothers – especially with multiple children – who cannot multi-task become shrill, difficult people who never make time for their kids. The “thing” they are trying to accomplish becomes more important than interrupting and enjoying your child’s question, thought, project or chore.

  39. posted by dee on

    Ummm…..why should you have to ASK ypur husband to do tasks that benefit not only himself but his family??

  40. posted by Her from there on

    I get agitated when I switch between jobs too – not because I’m switching but because I am doing so much because hubby does so little!!! I enjoy playing the game of “how much can I get done and STILL leave for work on time?” but not when I’m cleaning up after 3 people who have no inclination to clean up after themselves (one is too young, the next boy and the husby are ADHD). Men just dont seem to have the ‘guilt’ gene though – if I stay home with the kids, I work the entire time. If hubby stays home, he feeds a kid occassionally and they either watch TV together or one watches TV and the other plays on his computer. Great for them, but I still have to do all the work when I get back!

  41. posted by imp on

    Imagine this were a work place with two employees, tasks that must get done, and an annual review. At the annual review we would learn the female employee accomplished more than twice as much as the male employee with the same time and resources.

    I’m not advocating a wide-scale firing of husbands, but really: the question here isn’t single v. multi-tasking. It’s that doing less is less stressful.

    The reason for doing laundry wasn’t “here’s a fun thing I can do,” but rather “if I don’t do this now, it will be even more stressful later.” And that planning, that never-ending looking ahead and responding now, that taking care of everyone else at all times, there’s the stress source. There’s a cognitive piece here. It’s not about doing more than one thing at a time. It’s about being responsible for the well-being of a household of people, including another adult.

    If anyone has figured out how to solve this, please do share. “Ask for help” does not. It only addresses who does which parts of the task list, which is important, to be sure, but does not reduce the stress of the consistent mental processes required to plan, build, and monitor that task list in the first place.

  42. posted by Tim on

    @dee: Everyone is wishing for how things “ought to be” in a fair and just world. But the world is not like this. If you want change, you must ask for it. If you ask and he refuses, that’s different. But the mere fact that you must ask is not a sign that he is lazy or doesn’t care.

    There are deeply ingrained tendencies that we are fighting to change in our modern lives, and women happen to have the edge in being natural caretakers. Show your man the way (without a scowl on your face), and you may be surprised at his willingness to help out.

    And regardless of how willing (or not) your husband is to help, *your* life would still be better if you ask for assistance.

  43. posted by Tim on

    @imp: Have you shared these feelings with your husband? Asking for help does not just mean giving a to-do list. It could mean confiding in him about the deep stress it causes you when he doesn’t do his fair share.

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