They say multi-tasking isn’t good for you, that it just forces a person to switch gears in microbursts and do everything less effectively. That may be true if you are perusing a housing contract and listening to a lecture simultaneously, or trying to study for a physics test while driving to class. If that is the case, I would like to delicately suggest that you may have issues with time management that surpass a tempting quick fix via multitasking. On the other hand, if you have found yourself washing dishes while listening to Car Talk, or folding clothes while catching up on Adventuretime, then you know how distinctly pleasant a dull task can become when coupled with a livelier one or something your brain finds rewarding.
If you workout, ride bike, run,dance or do anything vaguely physical with your body more than once a week, you may have stumbled upon the truth, multi-tasking can be a godsend. Taking a 6 mile hike in the woods with your dog can be lovely and peaceful, but a six mile jaunt on a treadmill does not offer the same vista and chance to commune with nature and therefore can be brightened up by listening to your favorite podcast about cooking.
Taking a 20 mile bike along the shoreline with a friend is a great opportunity to hear the surf, the birds and listen to your friend’s work dramas…but if you are stuck on the spin cycle at home, a well timed Trap song can get you through the mountainous inclines before you know what happened. Are you doing 50 burpees a day? A book on tape about climbing mount Everest might inspire you not to wobble like jello throughout the process. Or you may prefer the poetry of Lord Byron. It doesn’t have to be directly related to the work you are doing physically. Sometimes you may want a mental boost to inspire you and sometimes you might want a distraction that makes you think on other things while you rove.
Multi-tasking can be a useful body/mind hacking trick to keep you focused on your goals or at least place holding your goals when the task seems too monotonous that day- most likely because you will not be pushing yourself to a new level, but rather maintaining the level. There are probably purists who would admonish you to stay present and in your body at all times in order to better listen to the communication between it and your mind. They have a good point. Definitely do that if you are in a setting that requires it ( focus needed to process new learning) inspires it (nature, friends, potential friends), or demands it (dangerous setting-traffic, wildebeests,boss sightings,etc..). But if you are knocking off something physical and you want your brain to get a little boost too, who can blame you? This is something Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time coach, defines as layering in her article “Layering: Multi-Tasking That Really Works”. She describes it as combining mental processing with mundane activities. Of course, there are purists too who would say if your workout is mundane, you should be stepping it up to the next level where you need to push yourself to do more. This may be true, but some days you will feel the need to maintain the workout rather than build it, and why let your mind wallow in the shallow end of the pool for that?