“It’s all one big circle,” I said to my husband for about the gazillionth time. I use this phrase often with him, because it helps him understand the state of my brain at any given moment. It refers back to an analogy we heard when we were newly married.
The analogy says that inside a man’s thoughts, each aspect of life is organized into its own separate box. Men tend to think of one thing at a time, and when they are done with that topic, they “box it up,” so to speak, and pull another box off the shelves. Separate boxes, not related to one another, dealt with one at a time.
(Incidentally, it’s why men can literally answer “nothing” when you ask them what they are thinking about. They actually have the capacity to have a brain empty of any subject at a given moment of time. Crazy, huh?)
With women, though, our brains are like one big circle. EVERYTHING in life is thrown in there into a spaghetti-like pile — everything relates to and intertwines with everything else, and we can think of many topics simultaneously.
That’s why him saying the kitchen is messy can throw us into a tailspin, because we think it means he doesn’t love us. In his brain, the kitchen is messy, that’s ALL that’s messy, this is the topic right now, and it has nothing to do with our relationship. In our brains, “the kitchen is messy” means we are an abject failure at housekeeping and has us questioning the entire marriage. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
Why do I say all this and how does it relate to organizing?
We women, because it truly is all one big circle, are prone to multitask. It’s just What. We. Do. In fact, we pride ourselves on our ability to juggle helping junior with his math while simultaneously making dinner and writing an email.
But it’s actually not a good habit to get into. We need to learn that there is a time and place for the “it’s one big circle” type of thinking — and most often it’s best NOT to multitask.
Guess what? New evidence shows that multitasking can actually HARM your brain.¹
AND it also turns out that multitasking leads to inferior results compared to doing one thing at a time.²
Even though we think “it’s all one big circle,” our brains still work best when dealing with each task or topic separately.
That could explain why I hate having to converse while putting my makeup on in the morning. Getting my eyeliner right takes all my concentration, y’all.
So you may have figured out that today’s organizing tip is to only do one task at a time.
Get that one task done well, then move on to the next one. You will actually be MORE productive this way, and what you do get accomplished will be done BETTER.
Applications of this:
When your kid needs help with school, stop what you are doing and go over and join him where he is. Give him your full attention for those 5 minutes; then return to your previous activity.
Don’t text and drive. OBVS. But actually, did you know that even just talking on the phone while driving is almost as dangerous as driving drunk — even when you are hands-free? This was an eye-opener for me when I heard John Tesh talk about it on the radio. While I was driving. (Actually, listening to the radio while driving is not as bad on the danger scale, just sayin'…)³
I know we ALL talk on the phone and drive at the same time, and you're probably thinking I'm getting a little ridiculous with that one. But think about it for a minute — do you feel calm and relaxed when you are driving while on the phone? Or are you like me — it's ok for a minute or two, but after that you are just trying to end the conversation because you're starting to get frustrated for no particular reason? THIS IS STRESS, y'all. The whole point of my series this month is to reduce our stress levels. So while this seem like a kinda out-there example, it may be one worth considering. Also, the truth is that we are probably not doing either task — the driving or the talking — very well.
Speaking of talking, we have a saying around our house: if you can't talk and work, then work. If the kid can't get the kitchen floor swept because he's too busy trying to tell a story about something that happened, he needs to first finish the sweeping, and then he can tell his story. If he can handle both at once, it's not a problem. But if the talking is a distraction from the work, then the work comes first.
Do you browse social media while cooking dinner? LOL. Come on, you know you’re out there. And my question is — how late does that make dinner? Not that I would know, or anything.
Actually, have you ever thought about actually scheduling your social media times during your day? Um, FB and Pinterest and Twitter and whatever else have a habit of hijacking our productivity, have you noticed? Plan one or two (or three or however many, depending on how addicted you are) specific times during the day when you will go on social media. Set a start time AND an end time. While you are there, give it your all, lol — then when the time is up, have the self-discipline to get off and go clean the bathroom.
Ooooo, here’s an idea: plan a treat for yourself for getting off when you said you would. Go to the kitchen and grab a Hershey’s kiss or some other small form of indulgence to reward yourself for putting the computer down. And another Hershey’s kiss after the bathroom is clean. Yea, I like that. :-)
If you are the type who gets distracted easily, then maybe you need to try the Pomodoro method. I detail it in reference to teenagers in Homeschooling Your Easily Distracted Teenager, but it works great for adults, too, so take a look. It definitely helps me focus and concentrate.
Like Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!” Your productivity will increase, and your stress level will decrease, when you stop thinking multi-tasking is the ideal. We are each only one woman, after all. Let’s stop trying to be three at a time.
The “circle of life” in a woman’s brain (you know you’re singing the song right now, right along with Elton) doesn’t have to take over our entire existence. There are times when it does help — but with being productive, not so much.