Multitasking: Balance Matters

“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  (PROGRAM LINK) 

Multitasking awareness is the key to keeping some balance in your life and not letting your typical patterns run the show, so to speak. This quotation by Jon Kabat-Zinn pretty much summarizes the bigger picture. “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” When you know what you are doing you are more likely to recall where you placed something or a person’s name or why you are standing in front of your refrigerator.

It is so easy to find yourself with someone, looking like you are listening and paying attention. But at times your mind is somewhere else or you are giving more attention to something that happened before or something coming up. What might you be missing? At a recent appointment, my young doctor surprised me by saying he refuses to multitask. He feels he can do a better job when he gives what he is doing his full attention and then moves on to the next thing once that is done or he is at a good stopping place. Everyday I hear not just older but younger people commenting negatively about their memory. Is that the problem or is it the multitasking, distractions and poor paying attention habits? It was truly refreshing to hear someone who is trying to create some patterns he feels maximizes his ability to handle the day to day routine. There are things you can do and it starts with awareness, then a positive attitude followed by some strategies then making additional modifications as circumstances change.

Some things to think about:

1.  Assess your ability to do one thing at a time and then listen to a person,  just eat a meal, or sit in total quiet for a period of time. One person recently shared that she always had so much to do and felt guilty doing nothing. How many times are you doing several things at once because you feel you have to or because it has become your new normal? Maybe you can start by changing your habit for 5 minutes here and there throughout the day. A recent study stated that people are so busy taking photos that they are losing memories.  The next time you start taking picture after picture notice if in that busyness you feel you are missing being present for what is taking place. Interesting thought!

2. One of the many benefits of saying yes to the present moment is that you pause and take in what is happening. Whether it is a special occasion, a shared connection or a safety concern, you are totally there. Think back to a time when you were able to do that. Do you want more of that in your life? Catch yourself when you fill your mind with other things and bring yourself back to what is in the here and now. It is one of the traits that can help not only improve your ability to remember but most likely reduce your stress level and enhance the quality of your days.

3. Be open to exploring resources that promote these types of skills. Try a meditation class or listen to a CD. Some people find that yoga, tai chi and karate have helped them to learn some new techniques. Personally I find a guided meditation to be very helpful and a few years ago, I decided to attend a program by a local speaker because I was so “time” stressed with a major project and wanted a break. His meditation just took me out of all of that craziness that comes with being too busy and I continue to use some of his techniques to my benefit.

What matters to you? What are your priorities? Would you like to preserve face to face conversations, precious moments, or find joy in the simplest of pleasures? Larry and Susan Terkel’s book Small Change might be an interesting resource to explore as you make a plan. It is about taking a small step here and there as you work toward a goal.

Tips to consider

1. Where is your “go to place” for relaxing, unplugging and feeling centered? Years ago I read a Chicken Soup for the Soul story about front porches. It reminded me of my childhood when I would visit my grandparents who lived on the second floor of a three decker home. What good feelings I have recalling the many hours I spent hours looking down on the small street to see what was happening on those warm summer days or the hours spent reading. Several years ago I decided to put a chair and table on my small front porch and enjoy the early mornings when I am sitting there with a cup of coffee. Seeing the  the flowers and birds, including the robin’s nest on a nearby light was a great way to start the day. Front porches and being by water are probably my two favorite places so far. What are yours?

2. When you start to become anxious, take a breath in and then out. Sometimes you can get so wound up you forget to breathe or you are not breathing deeply enough. “Restore your attention or bring it to a new level by dramatically slowing down whatever you’re doing.”  Sharon Salzberg,

3. Do not fill every moment of your day. One of my favorite words is to linger.  Maybe you can find one that reminds you to unplug, even ever so briefly, when you get into one of those spirals of over activity. Here are a few to consider: pause, go slow, breathe, lighten up, notice.

4. Do one task mindfully like sweeping the floor, washing dishes or planting some flowers. Years ago I was introduced to a wonderful book by Gunilla Norris when I heard her presentation at a health expo. In Being Home, she shares interesting perspectives on the many ordinary tasks it is easy to take for granted.

Balance matters. Do not let multitasking run you life. When you get caught up in your multitasking, take a moment to assess if it is impacting something that matters to you and think about what you can do for
1. Your safety and that of others
2. The quality of your interactions
3. The quality/accuracy of your work
4. The quality of your life
5. Your stress level and thus overall health

Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.  Rose Kennedy

Information on Kathryn’s products and links to sample pages.    Kathryn is available for private consultations as well as educational and training programs. 

About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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