Why Overcoming the Habit of Multi-tasking Creates a Successful Retirement

Did you spend most of your career juggling several priorities?

Was it commonplace to deal with too many demands — work/home; personal/career?

Did you feel inundated with responsibilities and requests?

Did you wish for more hours in the day to complete tasks?

In the last few years of my working life, I could answer ‘yes’ to each of these questions. Driven by ‘superwoman’ tendencies, I developed some bad coping habits as I dealt with an overloaded agenda.

As I learn how to live in the postworksavvy world of retirement, I sometimes feel these habits creep back into my days and I struggle to put them behind me.

Multi-tasking is one of these habits.

At the office, I learned that I could deal with emails while on conference calls.  I learned to make notes for presentations and to write outlines for reports during boring meetings.  I learned to ‘listen with one ear’ to colleagues while making mental ‘to do’ lists.

I neglected many home and family responsibilities leaving my husband to carry on with apologies that Jeanette was travelling on business or that Jeanette got delayed at the office.

Initially, these strategies helped me to use time effectively.  Eventually they became survival mechanisms.

Productivity gets Compromised — Personal Life Suffers

Upon reflection, I’m certain that my productivity was compromised, and not enhanced when I did more than one thing at once.

Sometimes multi-tasking increased the amount of time needed to complete easy tasks. Splitting attention among required activities may have caused mistakes.

Multi-tasking takes brain power
photo courtesy of sparklefish

Most definitely, multi-tasking depleted my energy level.  Enjoyment was undermined. My family and my personal life were neglected.

Old habits are hard to break

My retirement brought a resolution to take things more slowly and ‘smell the roses.’

However old habits creep back and sometimes I find myself doing two things at once while mentally calculating how to start a third activity.

Others who have retired report similar experiences.  Making the transition to a new lifestyle requires leaving behind those old ways of coping — including habits like multi-tasking.


Learning to focus on one thing at a time — what yoga refers to as mindfulness — is a great way to begin.  You don’t have to take up yoga or meditation to conquer the habit of multi-tasking.   Some common sense and easy to master techniques will help.

  • Consciously slow down — especially when you find yourself rushing to an appointment or to finish a task.
  • Remain intentional — remember that you have the whole day and that you control how you will spend the time.
  • Limit distractions — resolve to stay focused on what you are doing.  Turn off electronics when you need to concentrate on listening to your partner or comforting a friend or writing a blog post.  It’s safe to opt out — the world will wait for you.
  • photo by cambodia4kidsorgSchedule start and stop times — decide how much time you will fully devote to an activity before taking a break or shifting gears.
  • Allow ‘goof off’ time — sometimes you just can’t get into an activity so be kind to yourself by giving yourself permission to ‘goof off’.

Learning to observe your responses is important in stopping the old habit of multi-tasking.  Remember that old mistakes don’t have to be repeated and that old habits don’t need to continue.

The self-control you develop will bring more satisfaction to every day.  And you will have the time to fully savour every sweet postworksavvy moment.

2 Replies to “Why Overcoming the Habit of Multi-tasking Creates a Successful Retirement”

  1. want45sweetz says: Reply

    This is excellent advice. Lots of research indicates that trying to multi-task is not efficient and leads to errors and anxiety. As I see it, multitasking allows you to mess up two different tasks at the same time.

    But knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it easier to break the habit after retiring. It definitely helps that there are fewer distractions now, although sometimes I need to remind my partner that when I’m focused on getting dinner on the table is not the best time to ask me to review something.

    1. Multi-tasking continues as a habit left-over from my career. I am hoping that greater awareness of the pitfalls of multi-tasking will keep me focused and concentrating on one thing at a time.
      Be well and stay mindful. Jeanette

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