The Ugly Side of Multi-Tasking

Ah, multi-tasking.  It sounds so productive, doesn’t it?  So efficient?  I can practically see The Powers That Be, kicking back with their checklist of Tasks Teachers Should Complete To Be Effective and drooling over the power of getting just that much more out of their all mighty buck.

Any teacher worth her actual salt (What does that mean anyway?) can get more done in fifteen minutes than most people can do in an entire day.  Give me fifteen free minutes before my little friends walk in the room and I could answer a bunch of emails, prep a math lesson, put a poem up on chart paper, sweep the floor, bake a few cupcakes, write a short story and probably give myself a freaking pedicure.  On a good day.

On a bad day.  Oh, ON A BAD DAY, it’s a totally different story.

Let me clarify.  I don’t mean you’re typical teaching bad day wherein the children are bananas, staring out windows, picking their noses and generally more interested in the sounds one can make with one’s armpit.  No. I mean a Teacher Bad Day wherein said teacher can not get focused because there are so many To Dos that all need to get done yesterday, most of which are partially completed but none of which have been crossed off the list because she has been multi-tasking rather than getting anything done.  Feels busy.  But in terms of actually getting stuff done?  Not so much.

Isn’t crossing something off your To Do list the most wonderful feeling in the world?  Like Christmas, the last day before a vacation and your birthday all wrapped up in a warm cupcake with cream cheese frosting?

What were we talking about?

Right.  Teacher Bad Days.  On those sorts of days, give us fifteen minutes and we will partially complete many things, move around a bunch of piles that don’t seem to ever disappear and maybe reheat our coffee.  We will then spend the rest of the day moping about those wasted 15 minutes and what we coulda, woulda and shoulda done if we could just get focused.

Friends, I am having one of those days.

Seriously, I’ve written three partial blog posts, read a bunch of stuff on my Google Reader, clicked around the internet, read half a chapter of a professional book, gone to Staples, organized some files, called some principals and sent out a bunch of emails but in all that STUFF, nothing has gotten crossed off the list.  In some sick twist of fate, I am my most productive when I have an absolutely mind-blowing, soul-crushing amount of work to do.  When I have a manageable list in front of me…well, it’s an ugly display of looking busy under the guise of “multi-tasking” but really?  I’m getting nothing done.

Cry me a river, right?

So I guess I’m off to find more stuff to do so I can actually get something done.  We teachers are sick, sick people, no?

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  • Oh, I am SO with you! If I don't have 47 gazillion things to do both at home and at school, I get nothing done. In fact, that is the story of my whole summer vacation. I started projects, but because nothing was "pressing", I finished the summer with nothing completely finished. I don't know why my brain works better under so much stress. I know my waistline doesn't.

    September 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm
  • For my school they're piling so much on us (with no training of course) that it's becoming impossible to EVER cross anything off of our lists. 🙁

    September 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm
  • Is it wrong that I'm glad to hear it's not just me. Bring on the crushing, 3 feet long to do list! I work better under pressure!

    September 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm
  • Is it wrong that I'm so glad to hear it's not just me?? I work better under pressure… that's what I tell everybody!

    September 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm
  • I am the SAME way! I thought I was just strange…it's sadly comforting to know I am not alone!

    September 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm
  • Wahoo! I nominated you for "The Versatile Blogger" award! Go back to my blog: for more info!! Thanks for being awesome!

    September 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm
  • How great to hear someone else has seen and experiences the "The Ugly side of Multi-Tasking!" I am the same way and I am currently student teaching and I work full time, so I usually feel like a pro multi-tasker (most of the time).

    Thanks for making us other "multi-taskers" not feel so alone on those ugly days.

    October 6, 2011 at 2:42 am
  • Wow, you totally spoke to the heart on this one. I just had this feeling this morning. My kids were at Spanish class and I just couldn't focus and all I had to do was about 20 minutes worth of work. However, if I would have had an hour's worth; I would have managed to get it done the 25 minutes my students were gone. 🙂

    October 6, 2011 at 2:42 am
  • This couldn't have come on a better day for me. I feel like a hamster on a wheel going so fraking fast. The amount of correcting of papers I have to do boggles the mind. The pace of the curriculum is so tight, that making time to deal with friendship issues, trouble at recess, call a parent or generally be a human being with my students rather than a robot means I'm a week behind the pacing calendar in many a subject. I found myself becoming less than pleasant with my class yesterday, and I decided it was time for a mental health intervention. Home today correcting things, taking a long nap and pulling my act together. The multi-tasking sometimes takes its toll, and pressing pause is the only thing that works.

    October 6, 2011 at 2:42 am
  • Ya, when you are a teacher you are kind of isolated and don't realize there are a lot of other people out there just like you. Take some time out to get to know your colleagues outside of work if you can and share stories. I'm taking time off from teaching right now and seeing how other people live.

    October 6, 2011 at 2:42 am

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