The short answer to Can I do two things at once? is NO!!! Multitasking is not doing two things at once, and has been shown to be ineffective anyway.
That said, you can get two things done at once if you know how. There is a subtle difference which will allow you to get more done and be more efficient every day.
Doing two things at once (ie multitasking) has been shown to be inefficient even though we feel that we should get more done. There are numerous exercises to prove this, like this one from this productivity tips post.
However, with the right combinations of tasks, it is possible to get two things done at once.
Step 1: Understand the Fundamental Task Groupings
Tasks can be broken into the following groups. Understanding these is the first step.
Group 1: Tasks needing High Brain Processing [HB]
These include tasks that you need to pay attention to and think about constantly. Typically they also include the visual and auditory parts of the brain because these are large sections of the brain. For example
- Closely watching something
- Learning something new
- Interacting socially
Group 2: Tasks needing Low Brain Processing [LB]
These include things which you can do without thinking about – routines and things which have become second nature as well as the more primitive brain functions like movement. For example:
- Even driving under certain circumstances once it is really second nature.
- Also low brain requirement on your behalf like getting someone else to do it (outsourcing) or allowing computers/machines to do parts or subsequent repeats for you (automation).
Group 3: Tasks literally with Multiple Outcomes [MO]
- Planning for multiple synergistic outcomes like in Permaculture Design. Alternately, teaching where both the teacher and the student learn at the same time (teaching is a great way to learn – see Can I give the gift of completion?
- Planning for multiple synchronized outcomes across multiple people like larger classsizes or combined errands
Step 2: Plan Your Activities
Now and it is important to plan your activities to permit a higher percentage of tasks where you get two outcomes for a single effort. It won’t happen by itself.
Make a List
Shopping lists and task lists allow you to combine errands efficiently because tasks which can be synchronized become obvious. It also stops you from creating two trips out of one if you forget something and have to go back or repeat work.
Plan Synergistic Activities
- Combine social activities with fitness – Go for a walk/exercise[LB] while catching up socaily[HB]with a friend.
- Learn while doing something else – Listen to an educational program[HB] in the car[LB] or while doing the ironing[LB]
- Or Get the ironing done by someone else [No Brainer ! See below]
- Teach someone something you want to learn better yourself
- Do what you love – If you love your job, you are having fun and earning money!
- If you don’t love your job then plan how you can make it fun or find a new one.
- Always combine trips even if it from one end of the house to the other. You will get better at it.
Insist on Good Design and Planning
Another way of doing two or multiple things at once is using a Permaculture Design approach. People tend to think that Permaculture is only about gardening, but actually Permaculture is really about designing systems.
If you plant what is known in Permaculture as the Three Sisters, (corn, a bean and a ground runner like pumpkin), nearby each other, what you have is a synergy of plants working together.
- The Pumpkin protects the ground from the sun keeping it moist,
- the bean provides nitrogen to the soil for the other two plants and
- the corn provides a stake for the bean to climb up.
- Meanwhile, they all provide food for you thus achieving 2 things at once for each plant. This set of growing three different plants at once is synergistic and you multiply your original efforts because you don’t need as much mulch, fertilizer or staking.
- Passive solar housing giving warmth and light without excessive energy inputs
- Solar on roofs utilizing unused space, giving power and possibly reducing air conditioning requirement and power station load on the peek summer days.
- Advertising campaigns that link two businesses or the goals of a business and a charity.
- A fence made out of water tanks or fruit trees
- Sharing meals with friends on alternate days (only one person needs to cook each time, but both benefit)
- Making the effort to share a ride – obvious dual task, but also social aspect
- Post a comment on your ideas!
Plan your activities and how you structure them so other people can help efficiently and get them done for you. Planning really is the key. Once you have mapped out the tasks, improve your skills in communication and in creating a fun environment and get even more motivated help. This is a great way to get more than one thing done at once. I learntoutsourcing and out-tasking in this course. Here is a video my team put together Can I do 2 things at once? I also mention outsourcing one in my manifestation post. Let’s face it, if you can manifest it, why do it at all!
Remember: Practice makes perfect, so keep thinking about it and you will see opportunities everywhere to get multiple things done at once.