midweek muse on multitasking


I don’t have enough time.

Ever heard that?
When’s the last time you said it?

Seth Godin says it’s not a shortage of time really but attention. Yep. We like to say that time is our most precious commodity these days, but I’m learning that the true value in time is not the actual minutes, but the minutes of focused attention. You will get more done in 15 minutes of true concentration, then you will in 45 minutes of  distracted “multi-tasking”

Welcome to midweek muse. Stuff I’m mulling over and attempting to understand, implement, improve or teach (with no guarantee of clarity or relevance)

So, multi-tasking …

As women, we are natural multi-taskers. This however does not mean that we can effectively do multiple things at once. I used to pride myself in the attempt to multi-task, and let’s face it sometimes in our daily routines, we don’t have a choice. BUT … often times we do have a choice and as our world becomes more distracting and demanding, I’m choosing more often to FOCUS in short bursts of attention, over 15, 30 and sometimes (depending on the task at hand) 60 minutes.

You can only give your full attention to one thing at a time. It’s true and if you really want to engage with something in a satisfying, productive and rewarding way, it takes your full attention.

NOW .. this does NOT mean that you can’t move multiple projects forward at the same relative time. You absolutely can. I do. When people ask how I am able to get a LOT done, this is my answer: I’m not afraid to start something new before I’ve finished something else. I’m also getting better at tracking process and progress. I’m learning that there is a point in every process where you need to concentrate on finishing, but up until that point, you can be extremely productive in moving the parts and pieces a long the path to completion. I’m also learning that the sooner you start, the better.

You have the ability to add projects, opportunities and experiences to your life even when you are in the midst of other projects, opportunities and experiences. Simply put, this practice has allowed me to participate more fully with life. As long as you learn to manage expectations and the creative process of each commitment in a progressive way, you CAN do more than you think you can and (the really cool thing is) your capacity, similar to a muscle will increase and expand as you carefully overload it. It sounds like I’m advocating for excessive stress, but I’m not. What I’m saying is BIG accomplishments are a series of little accomplishments and little accomplishments can be accomplished in 15 minute chunks — especially when you’re are fully focused.

I believe as creative women, it is essential that we engage
with a variety of projects at any given time — the stimulus that comes
from doing so is like super-food for the right side of our brains.

You can be working on a gift album for your sister and a vacation mini-book about the trip to Disney and stop both to respond to inspiration and create a layout dedicated to your son’s personality.

If you force yourself to finish a project that really doesn’t HAVE to be finished, you might zap the very energy you crave and when you choose to not act on incoming inspiration you may end up feeling like your best ideas never happen. So, muse for a few moments about your ability to …

1. Turn it on and then turn it back off .

2. Take it out and then put it away.

3. Get started and then STOP.

Is your home and creative space set up to support this kind of flow? Maybe it’s not organization of actual product, but organization of process and progress that could help you get more done — especially when it’s stuff you really want to do!

muse over.
I’m curious … what do you think?

BTW, I’m faithfully reading the Write.Click.Scrapbook blog this week. Angie is there. Actually, she and Wendy are at Elizabeth’s house and I’m feeling left out! Thank goodness for virtual vicariousness (I can’t believe that is a word!)


  1. i do this a lot with my knitting, actually. i’ve got several projects on the needles at any given time, am knitting one hundred hats for charity while also knitting sweaters for charity, while making holiday presents and baby items and …

    somehow, it all gets done. i focus in short bursts on each item or each project, and i can see (thanks to Ravelry among other things!) my progress moving slowly and steadily along.

    the combo of large-scale multi-tasking with small-scale single-tasking works wonders!

  2. Stacy you are absolutely right! Moving forward with multiple projects is the only way I actually ever get things done! If I waited to actually FINISH a project, it would be a long time before I would be able to start a new one. When I have an idea I have to jump on it before I lose momentum. It is this creative momentum that carries me through the new projects as well as existing ones. I get new ideas as I work through various stages of projects which then spill over into other projects. I like to think of it as my “creative continuum”. (After all, it’s all in the journey, right?)

    Having said that, sometimes a few minutes of full concentration delivers very satisfying results!

    Love your new site – it’s fresh and inspirational! Thanks for all your ideas!

  3. Stacy-I never really liked to not finish something when I was in the middle of something else. BUT…there is something to be said about the point you made with wondering where your best ideas went. Mine leave when I don’t pay attention to them when they are calling me. And…I wonder why I feel so creatively drained sometimes. You definitely put it into perspective for me.

    I am gonna try your experiment (for me, that is what it is) and little by little learn to creatively multi-task. I can do it with other stuff in life..why not my hobby?! :) Thanks! :)

  4. In scrapbooking I’m a start something and follow through kinda gal. Mainly because I do more layouts than mini-books. So I don’t have a bunch of projects on the go.
    As far as household stuff I start a million projects/jobs/tasks and get them either 50% or 95% complete then keep moving on. I do the 15 mintue timer with my girls for their room clean up and it works well. I should do this for myself. It is amazing what you can get done in a short amount of concentrated time versus a long amount of “running around like a chicken with your head cut off”.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if I have some chemical or hormonal reason for just getting bored with a task and moving on to another… Then I realize there just aren’t enough hours in the day… Better to start something and get it partially done that do nothing at all!
    Layouts? Sure. I start one, I work on it, but it’s rare that I actually finish it when I start it – I usually leave the journaling “for later” and the the layouts pile up, waiting for that last touch they need to be actually “finished.”
    Housework? I get home at 6:30pm (after leaving before 7am). We eat a quick dinner and if I’m lucky, I get to throw a load of laundry in the washer. It’s a GREAT night when I actually remember to put it in the dryer!!! Vacuum? Sure, when I see dust bunnies moving when we walk up the stairs! I sort of stay on top of the bathroom ’cause I have a low tolerance for hairspray buildup on the sink or soap scum in the shower; it’s a quick wipe once I’m done and that’s under control…
    If I didn’t multitask, NOTHING would even get started!!!

  6. Wow! You just said what I’ve been thinking so much the last few days! As a mother of five (can you relate?), a home-manager, a homeschooler, an online instructor, a wife, a passionate reader, a scrapbooker, a blogger…. people often marvel as though I somehow have more time than they do! And I was thinking of how to explain that I do lots of things in small chunks of time throughout the day, that’s how I do it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t ever concentrate on one thing for a long period of time, there is a time and place for that, too. But my daily flow includes moving from one thing to another in short periods of focus, keeping my priorities in front of me, and moving forward as much as possible in the time that I’ve been given. And you are so right, it does require being organized in a way that makes me effective in this way! I have to have a system that catches all the little pieces, keeps them from dropping out of sight, when I move to something else…but once you’re organized in this way, you can relax and enjoy each of your moments, projects, jobs and blessings, because you know that you’ll not forget to get back to all the other ones. I am always amazed at how much I can move a project forward in 15 minutes, and the satisfaction in that progress is just as wonderful as the satisfaction of spending 3 days doing a project and nothing else until it is complete…more even, because I have not neglected a million other things in the process. I can be thrilled at what I’ve done, and look forward to coming back to it in a day or two.

    Thank you for your inspiration and insight, as always!

  7. The cool thing about having more than one project going at once is there is almost always something I feel like doing when I have some time to create. If one project is overwhelming me or not inspiring me, I can just as easily pick another. It’s like having a creativity vending machine of little project snacks. :)

  8. Are you familiar with Fly Lady? http://www.flylady.com I love her philosphy that you can do anything for 15 minutes. I keep my timer close by especially when I’m working from home. I find it so easy to get distracted, my nickname is Sidetrack Sally. When I set my time for 15 mins and give myself a specific job to work on I find that I get alot accomplished because I’m motivated by the timer to focus and get as much done before I hear the beeps. In my scrapbooking I usually have serveral projects on the go because I need lots of variety. Some projects are better to take to crops, some I can only work on at home and some are just really big and therefore I get a little bored and need to take a break. Great musing, I’m loving your new site. Hope you have a terrific day :o)

  9. Being willing to start something new, while in the middle of something else has allowed me to take advantage of so many wonderful classes and teachers on Big Picture Scrapbooking and Jessica Sprague.com. Sometimes I actually get a project finished in the class time-frame. But mostly it is partly done and I’m starting a new class. I go back and finish the old ones when I’m at a weekend crop (that’s FOCUSED time for me!). At home I’m always being pulled in a dozen directions at once. Like right now – I need to get off the computer and finish dinner. Chicken is in the oven!

  10. Hmmm…I wouldn’t have thought it possible but perhaps that is where my problem lies. I have so much I want to do & never get to because I am doing something else – so I will try it but one thing I can’t abide are UFOs (Unfinished offerings…) so, as long as I get to finish the project within a year of starting I’ll be happy ( a year might sound like forever but look at how quickly they come & go…)

  11. I am completley opposite — I love to focus on ONE thing and do it as well as possible. At the same time I do like to jump arond on say the internet and go from place to place. But I thnk sometimes we are a nation of ADD sufferers and thanks to media and things like commercials and music videos and how movies are shot, no one really knows how to FOCUS deeply and meaningfully.

    An analogy would be jumping from man to man (or woman to woman if that’s how you roll) versus picking ONE man to spend a life with. If you pick the one person, then you go deep. The stability is what allows me to be creative, to make a life happen.

    Some people really like the variety, they get “bored” but I genenrally don’t unless what I am doing is actually boring.

    OTOH keep in mind I am not raising small children so in those cases I guess you really have to train yourself to move from thing to thing and rarely be able to complete anthign in one setting. If you don;t I guess you’d go crazy.

  12. {penny}scraps says:

    Stacy, you are just the BEE’S KNEES. I just read your posts this week. You make me smile. Every time.

    I have been implementing LOM for a month now. I had to read Photo Freedom 4 times before I could process all the info toward a system for me. I order prints and 2 ups every Friday. Eating that elephant one bite at a time. :) When I get my 2 ups here, I’ll double-up on my print order. I’m telling you that so you know some of us are just out here quietly faithfully focusing on story – Photos + Words. :) I started Ali’s class week before last. LOVING IT. Love how you pioneered into BPS and how it is uber flexible.

    And finally, I’ll say that I was so DISTRACTED by all that is around me that I had a hard time focusing on today’s blog post about being distracted! ha! But then I got down to PEACE and that’s when I thought I’d tell you you’re the BEES KNEES.

    Somewhere, our God is tickled pink over you. Thanks for everything you do – day in, day out. One day I’ll send you brownies.

    Hugs and blessings,

    • Stacy, this is so freeing for me to hear. Sometimes I just get stuck because I feel like I have to finish something before I start something else, but I don’t have the inspiration anymore to finish it. Thanks for saying it’s ok to let it go for awhile and come back to it when the inspirations hits again. Don’t know if you remember me but I was one of the “Train Girls” at the Delta Phi Scrappa retreat. You totally changed my way of scrapbooking. Love the new website.

  13. Thanks for this post! I’m taking Ali’s class and was looking back at my projects and pages, and I was getting down on myself because I have quite a few mini-albums that aren’t finished! It is really bothering me. I have this creative vision and I get excited and do the title page, and several of the filler pages but for some reason I don’t finish! Maybe it’s because I had too many projects going on; who knows. I realize now that it’s okay, but I need to get better at tracking my projects and processes.

    One reason why I love BPS classes is that I tend to finish them…or almost! Thanks Stacy!

  14. Sara Padgett says:

    Hi Stacy – This is actually a comment about the post before. I just went to Target and have my new photo album (which I LOVE). I can’t wait to see the project you have for us. Please give us some sneak peaks! I can’t wait!

  15. I totally agree Stacy. I used to think multi-tasking was the way to go but I have learned that focusing on a task means I accomplish more. I use my timer quite a bit but I am going to use it more now that i have read you post today. Now, if I could just apply some of this to scrapbooking, photography organization. When does LOM start again??!!


  16. Stacy, I have to tell you, my husband just told me the night before last, that I am not a very good multi-tasker! I get started on the laundry, tried to do something else and then forget to move it to the dryer! Or I will start picking up the bedroom, find something that doesn’t belong, go to put it away, and never come back! Reorganizing classes that I have taken online with Aby, I start out all gung ho and after about the 3rd week, the take the back seat. I have to say that I am horrible at follow through. As far as scrapbooking goes, I now will start a layout and complete it before starting a new one. I just work that way. I’m not looking for perfection and when I decide to use the paper or the photo or the story-I’m ready to do it in it’s entirety (sp). However, albums, that’s another story…I have yet to add the pics to my class I just finished with Cathy at BPS, still have more layouts and printing of my ECWAL class, and several other BPS projects that I started. So there in a nutshell–I’m just too distractable to multitask. Now that the kids are back in school, I am going to set goals to get several household projects completed before moving on to a new household project. But I have to have variety and allow myself to jump from uncompleted project to uncompleted project as not to get bored. Thanks for making me dig into myself.

  17. Multiple projects, many hats I can so relate. The question I have is how does everyone keep organized??? I used to keep a notebook – now I can’t because my kids then take it when I leave it some place and color pretty pictures for me. I used to have a palm – then it died. I try to use my computer and Remember the Milk for to do tracking – but don’t always remember to get on it every day to check off completed tasks or don’t have the computer by me when I need to keep track of something. How do you do it?

    Maybe it is just part of my makeup that I’m really good sitting down and making a list but I easily get overwhelmed trying to keep the list up to date, or because of the number of hats I wear I am overwhelmed at the sheer amount to be done.

    I love your site, love coming here for inspiration. I hope you don’t mind me asking my BIG question….

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