Baby boomers, who spent their entire careers keeping multiple balls in the air to satisfy their bosses, are now faced with a new form of multitasking. Fortunately, we’ve been well-trained but the tasks demanded by retirement and ageing are a little different and less demanding than when we were still working.
Five years ago I posted a piece Don’t Buy Into The Multitasking Myth about the dangers of multi-tasking and the assumption that it’s a good thing. Crazy-busyness is not a virtue. That myth has been debunked and it’s been proven that we need clear heads and a distraction-free environment to be truly and optimally productive.
Don’t hate me, but here are some of the current challenges facing retired baby boomers like me:
- I can do the ironing and watch television at the same time. Yep! I set up the ironing board in front of the TV and watch a British mystery or sitcom that I have PVR’d or streamed on my Firestick. If I’m feeling particularly nimble, I can also drink a mug of tea while I iron and watch TV. Impressive, eh?
Boomers can make a long drive (in daylight hours, of course) seem so much shorter if we listen to sixties music on oldies radio at the same time. If we really blast the music we can’t hear ourselves belting out all those wonderful old tunes off-key. Time and the miles literally fly by. If we go to a McDonald’s or Timmie’s drive-thru we can even score an icy Coke or hot beverage to sweeten the experience and add a third activity to our busy repertoire.
- When I walk the dog, I can also listen to sixties music on my earbuds but loud singing is not recommended in quiet residential neighbourhoods. I might not be able to chew gum at the same time, though.
- Boomers still love going to the movies, It invokes those early years of nervous dates with our crush-du-jour. Once we’re seated and our hearing aids are dialled down a bit to moderate the loud noise, we settle in for the bucket of popcorn and pail of Diet fountain Coke juggling act. It’s a challenge but we usually prevail without spilling everything all over the floor and making a sticky mess. Those lovely armrest cupholders are a blessing. Watching a movie while eating and drinking—another challenge met.
This may sound a bit show-offy, but I can nap and think at the same time. Often, that’s where my most brilliant blog ideas begin to germinate. Back in the days when I was still working, my best inspirations usually came just before I dropped off to sleep at night. Combining napping and day-dreaming outside in my patio La-Z-Girl is particularly conducive to generating brilliance.
I know there are many boomers out there who can golf and drink beer at the same time. Well done! I have not yet mastered reading my latest library book while jiggling around in the massage chair while getting a pedicure, but I expect that skill will come eventually with more practice.
My husband can sleep in his recliner and watch sports on TV at the same time, a skill comparable to my prowess in napping and thinking. This is an essential skill for anyone who bets on games and needs to witness their team scoring the winning touchdown or goal. They have to be sharp for the post-game debriefing on the phone with their friends, which often lasts as long as the game itself. Amazing.
Some of my friends can prepare meals and cook while talking on the phone—sadly, I am not one of them. In fact, I’m not that good at either of those activities, which is why I rarely do either. Avoidance is a singular activity at which I do excel.
Have you ever wondered why doctors cannot give you a pelvic exam and treat your sore shoulder in the same appointment? They, too, have learned the advantages of just doing one thing at a time. They avoid multitasking and you need to book a separate appointment for more than one ailment at a time. I think our dentist and mechanic are on to the same scheme as neither likes to do more than one procedure at a time. They’ll be great as retirees.
The way it was
I know in my working days, I could really only do a good job when I focused on one thing at a time. If I tried overlapping writing a proposal with planning a corporate event or composing our company magazine (in the days before websites), I would become stressed and now I wonder whether my output was the best it could have been. In the real working world, however, multitasking is still a necessity for survival.
In high school, we were trained in typing class to sit with our feet flat on the floor for our typing drills. No crossing of feet at the ankles or knees, or heaven forbid, splaying our legs out at odd angles. To this day if my feet are not parallel and flat on the floor and my mind focused when I’m working on my computer, my brain scrambles and I make mistakes. That lesson is a metaphor for work in general.
Doing one thing at a time and doing it well is now recognized as a better way of working. Obviously, this is not always possible, particularly in the working world or if you’re a parent, but there is merit in the principle. It’s an advantage understood by retired boomers.
When you’re having one of those days when you feel overwhelmed by having more than one chore to do that day, do not despair. If you don’t feel like doing laundry and going grocery shopping all on the same day, don’t sweat it. I understand completely. You’re being the best you can be without screwing everything up.
Do not fall back into the multi-tasking rat race unless you are absolutely certain you can keep at least two balls in the air at the same time. I can’t because I know my limitations and I pace myself. So I only do one thing at a time which is why I’m so productive creatively as evidenced by this amazing blog posting.
Stay tuned for more life-affirming observations and suggestions for a better life from your better boomer blogger.