Multi-Tasking vs. Multi-Focusing—Be Fruitful Not Busy

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 10.33.50 AM

I know people are being polite when they begin messages/conversations with, “Kristen, I know you have been busy but…” Lord, I work hard not to be busy. I don’t believe humans are called to be busy, rather we’re called to be fruitful. 

Now, I’ll warn you. The world will relentlessly preach the opposite—namely because the world has something to sell to make us “more productive”…and then, when we have a nervous breakdown from doing a thousand things at one time, there are meds, vacations and Snuggies for sale.

The Hard “Science”

Laundry multiplies when left alone too long. My inside sources (The Dust Bunnies) tell me the dirty laundry, when left too long to their own devices start forming cults, particularly “The Whites.” According to The Bunnies, laundry apparently must sacrifice a sock to their god—Dry-Ur—every load so Dry-Ur will not smite them.

Um what else did you think Dry-Ur lint was made from?

With the proper sacrifice, the laundry can be fruitful and multiply. “The Reds” have been known to give a blood sacrifice on occasion. Yes, your husband’s undershirts will be pink, but the laundry is then blessed with more generations of progeny.

The Dust Bunnies swear on their lives this is true, so they’ve bought a little time. That and the vengeful monster-god Vah-COOM has been satiated with enough sacrifices of left earrings and Cheerios that he told me to take a day off.

Aside from the occult activities happening in your hamper and under your couch, there are a lot of other distractions in life. Namely? LIFE.

No one gets out alive.

Don’t you have days that you’re simply exhausted? You’ve been running, running, running all day, but feel you have nothing to show for it? There’s a difference between busy and fruitful. Here’s some tips for being fruitful.

Multi-Tasking vs. Multi-Focusing

“Experts” claim people can’t multitask. That’s bunk or no infant or husband would have survived the first generation of humans.

I do a lot of multi-tasking, but it needs to be one “thinking activity” and one “mindless.” We can multi-task. We cannot multi-focus.

I make the beds and pick up toys while checking in with my mother each morning. Relationships take effort, and so does keeping the bottoms of our feet from being shredded from matchbox cars and Legos. This is being fruitful. Listening to a sermon or self-help podcast while dusting? Fruitful. Folding laundry while watching movies (good for writers–clean clothes and stories)? Fruitful.

When I get into trouble is when I try and do two “thinking” activities.

I once accidentally drove to Missouri. TRUE STORY.

I was in sales, and I did a lot of driving, about 1500-3000 miles a week. I had a nine-state territory and Northern Mexico, meaning I drove to Mexico about every six weeks. So I was on the road most of the time, and often quite tired (and bored). I had certain “routes” I drove. I’d drive to Wichita, Kansas, then work my way down. Next day Tulsa, next day OKC, then back to Dallas.

This particular day, I finished my morning appointment in Kansas and then my late afternoon appointment in Tulsa and ate dinner. By seven I was on the road. I was really fatigued, but I wanted to get to OKC by around nine so I could pass out and be rested for my early morning meeting.

Ah, add in a cell phone.

A customer called as I was headed for the Interstate and instead of waiting? I answered and was handling business questions while navigating. Once on the highway, I knew I was in for a long stretch of NOTHING, so after I hung up with my client, I called Mom. Unbeknownst to me, during that first critical interruption, I’d gotten on the turnpike going north instead of south. So I’m talking away for mile after mile then finally I see a sign, “Joplin 20 Miles.”

Joplin? Joplin, Oklahoma? That doesn’t sound right.

Since I was really tired, I said to my Mom, “Joplin? Joplin’s not in Oklahoma.”

“Baby, you’re in Missouri.” *head desk* #epicfail

I finally made it to OKC at 2:00 in the morning, since I had to drive all the way to Joplin to escape the turnpike and turn around, then drive from Missouri back to OKC.

Yes, I have peeled the banana, kept the peel and tossed the banana. I’ve put my cell phone in the freezer, my keys in the fridge. But accidentally driving to Missouri? I think I get bonus idiot points for that.

Multi-tasking is fine. Listen to music on a long drive. Muti-focusing? For the most part, it can just make a mess. So, yeah, fold towels while talking to loved ones…just don’t put the towels away. They could end up in the garage.

Make Lists

Write out a list of the most important things you need to accomplish. Lists help us focus. They also help us see the most efficient way of doing things. Can we pick up the cleaning on the way to pick up kid from school, then stop by pharmacy on the way to the grocery store, then swing by the post office on the way home?


….And Goals

If we sit down and just write, that’s good, but word count or page count goals are better.

Set a Routine and GET SLEEP

When I get out of my routine, everything just seems to go sideways. I write at the same time every day. I find when I don’t stop working by a certain time, it affects my sleep. I refuse to look at e-mail after 5:00 P.M.

If I stick to my routine, I wake up refreshed. If I don’t?

This stuff happens.

I lost the nacho chips. Why didn't I think to look in the REFRIGERATOR?

I lost the nacho chips. Why didn’t I think to look in the REFRIGERATOR?


Eat good stuff, drink water, get enough sleep, multi-task away (but multi-focus at your own risk). Make lists so it’s easier to be efficient and prioritize. Otherwise, life will feel like you are strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A Whirl.

What about you guys? What are some of your multi-focusing mishaps? Bet you can’t beat accidentally driving to MISSOURI. What tools do you use to be productive instead of just busy?

Oh, and meet Vah-COOM…(there are kittens involved).


I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).


Back to School!

Upcoming Classes: NEW!!! Going Pro Series

 Going Pro Craft is CLOSED, but with the bundle you will get the recoding and notes in On-Demand format, then Going Pro SocialMedia/Branding ALSO CLOSED but also offered on-demand, and TOMORROW EVENING Going Pro Business September 10th, Going Pro All the Way! (ALL THREE). Use WANA15 for $15 off individual classes.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


4 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. I was trying to drive to the middle of Illinois one time and ended up in Wisconsin instead. So it’s not just you.

  2. I once did almost the same thing. Was driving from Dallas to Wichita for Christmas. Stopped at Turner Falls to eat the lunch I had brought with me. Got back on the highway and automatically started heading back to Dallas. Took me almost an hour before I realized it (the sun going down on the wrong side did not clue me in – it was the sign for Dallas that did). My family had Christmas dinner a little late that year…

    The problem with my job is that you are expected to multifocus, on about five different areas at all times. That is why I have a dental appt for Monday – grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw because of the stress has apparently cracked something (again) and I have an infection. Love my job… Not.

  3. HEY! NO FAIR! Your post got my day off to a … well, let’s just say I laughed so hard I’m battling with the hiccups – and THAT wasn’t on my list for today!!!

  4. The quote I have hanging on my wall at work: It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised; the mosquito is swatted. (Marie O’Conner)

    I’ve missed an exit and ended up driving almost to Idaho when taking a load of teenagers to a youth leadership conference. They thought it was hilarious! What scares me is the times I drive somewhere AND DON’T REMEMBER THE DRIVE! I really hope I didn’t run over a squirrel or toddler and not notice.

    I have to multitask, as in two or more thinking activities, at a time in my job. It’s not unusual for me to be developing a test for one product while talking about a completely unrelated one to another coworker. As a result, some of the most amusing things come out of my mouth. “Boil the refrigerator for a half hour to extract the oven…”

  5. Excellent point!

  6. You are the true voice of reason mixed with life and reality and truth. Now to find a golden image of you somewhere ……… perhaps, in the downtown area.

    1. Kristen Lamb, Patron Saint of OOH! SHINY! LOL.

      1. You know you have something special when your golden image has a golden image made from it.

        1. LOL.

      2. Was going for a more direct reference towards Ex. 20:29 but OHH! SHINY!! works..

  7. For what it’s worth, I’ve accidentally driven to South Carolina. Oh Google Self-driving Car, when will you be released to the deserving public???

  8. Love it and very true! To add to the stories of accidental driving, a friend and I left DisneyWorld in Orlando. Our hotel was across the interstate, about a mile away. We took a wrong turn and it took three counties before we could turn around. Of course, there were four kids stacked like logs in the back seat snoring. Not one of them woke up before we got to the hotel-two hours later. For that I’m grateful. We would have never heard the end of it…

  9. multi-tasking is multi-screwing-up.

    1. For starters, I’m probably doing something wrong. I want to reply to doovinator, but I’m getting ‘the wickedchicken’.. Anyway, whoever said “Multi-Tasking is Multi-Screwing up.” AMEN!!! For me, I get HALF of Everything but ALL of NOTHING done. So, I figure out what needs to be done and do one thing at a time and move on.

      I USED to try and multi-task; especially when I moved in where I am now. That was a month ago, but, at the time, I was sure I’d still be unpacking a month later. I was trying to unpack AND organize every room at the same time til I finally gave up and went to bed. Next day, rested and somewhat refreshed, I tackled one room at a time. Smallest first. That was the bathroom. Then, the kitchen. Then the living room, the bedroom, and, at last, the closet. DONE. And it only took me three days. TRUST me when I tell you, that will NEVER happen again!

      Writing wise, same deal. Get the sketch outline done, then work on the draft. DO NOT (I repeat NOT even ATTEMPT to EDIT until the entire story is on paper or document page, and allowed to be out of your sight for a month anyway. If you try editing in the middle of writing, like every other attempt at multi-tasking, half of two jobs will get done and then not only will you not be finished but you might even forget what you were in the middle of trying to do.

      As the saying goes, “You can only be in one place at at time.” So can your mind. Prioritize. Set that goal for the day (or until it’s done) and then move onto the next thing.

      Speaking of which, that’s what I should be doing. 🙂

      1. hi Gillian!
        I had a serious injury to my left wrist which limited my typing for some months, but thanks for your note!
        I agree, editing should not be started until the whole thing has been written and then allowed to sit for awhile. I started writing a few stories to read to my kids at bedtime, and their requests for more and more prompted me to write my memoirs; I’d sit in my car on my lunch hour and write a few more pages every day. I quickly decided chronological order was the ONLY way it would EVER end up as anything but a huge mess, and three years later had 1000 pages! I did some preliminary editing and got it down to 600, but then set it on the back burner. In the meantime my mother started her memoirs, and asked me to edit! So now I’m getting back to what I was doing in the first place!

        1. No worries. Life gets in the way. Ironically, I’m recovering from breast cancer surgery (they got it all, but I still have radiation treatments). Good news….. SUMMER OFF!!!! 🙂 😀

          Anywho… I have one novel project and a more ….theologically based project. I have decided to pick times for doing one or the other, depending on my mood. Welll….that was the plan.

          As it is, I spend more time, right now, on the theology project, so I can get it uploaded onto my blog. My novel project is done in spits and dribbles. Even now I know what I have to fix, but when that urge hits, I go back to the other project, so the editing mood will pass by and then go back and scribble when I have an idea.

          Right now, the story looks like a whole lot of half-finished thoughts. Note pages. But I have enough of an idea so when I’m able to fully commit to it, I’ll be able to ‘flesh’ the idea out into a fully realized story.

          1. well good luck to you with that too! My wife wants me to do something more “theological”, I suppose is as good a word as any, when I have room on my plate; I have a BIG pile of notes for that already, which are in no order whatsoever! I was fortunate with my memoirs in having several diaries and journals I wrote as a teenager, then a round-robin my brothers and sisters sent around for 20 years or so, of which I kept copies, and finally a dozen or more scrapbooks my wife put together, all of which served to keep things in chronological order–but still, I was surprised by how often the order of happenings I remembered bore little resemblance to the order they actually occurred!

          2. It’s been said people have ‘selective memory’ where they either prefer something happening in such and such an order, or would swear, on a stack of Reader’s Digest that “It happened THIS way at around THAT time.”

            My theological project is a tad controversial in some circles, but I figure I either do it this way or continue to turn the air a ….light blue every time the topic is brought up. This way, I’ve vented my spleen.

            I have really got to find out what a SPLEEN is (biologically) and why it needs venting. 😉 Good luck with your project. I’ve got any number of full notebooks starting to accumulate in a box in my bedroom closet. If I ever get around to turning those books into one big project, Lord have mercy on my computer memory! 😉 That’s all I have to say.

  10. Thanks for this very helpful Kristen, this is one of my biggest writing challenges. Andrea

  11. If you ask my mum a question while she’s busy doing something else, you’ll get weird answers. For example, my brother once asked her where his school jumper was, and was informed, “Oh, I cooked it.” Meaning that she washed it, thankfully.

  12. Ok, you hit the nail on the head. I multi-focus then clean up the mess. This is how my kids got forgotten at daycare… Gotcha! And thanks.

  13. I’ve lost track of the things I’ve lost track of for much the same reasons. As soon as I’m — SQUIRREL! — distracted from whatever task is at hand, groceries, tools, you name it, wind up in the most inexplicable places — at which point it’s almost amusing to see where they eventually resurface.

    Thank you for a great laugh and the reassurance that I am, indeed, not alone. And ‘Dear Kitten’ — perfect!

  14. I’ve never driven to another state by accident, but when I was in college, my family had moved from the edge of town to a sort of central west part of the city. However, on my way home from the local college, I was listening to a tape my professor gave me to study for homework. When I pulled into the yard and turned off the car, I realized I had driven right up to our old house. I sighed at myself and turned around.

  15. I no longer feel alone because of multi-focusing errors 🙂

  16. Oh I LOVE THIS!!!! In both my professional and personal life lately, I’ve been having a lot of discussions with a lot of people about the horrors of multi-tasking. But you’re right. It’s not multi-tasking that’s the problem, it’s multi-FOCUSING! Brilliant!! I shall be sharing this one in my epic, soon-coming blog post on how you can do all the things all the time by not actually doing all the things all the time! 😉

  17. I’ve been busy at work. I try to be more fruitful by watching Netflix while I type my notes up–as long as I can find a mindless enough show, it works fine.
    Great post, Kristen!

  18. Hilarious as usual. I once drove out of NC into SC by mistake while thinking about things I needed to get done that day and navigating to a strawberry pick-your-own farm. Now I’ve got a GPS, that fixes that. 🙂

    This post is SO me! LOL.

  19. Oh boy, I am so guilty of this. Such a great reminder, thank you!

  20. Hello Kristen
    GPS helps me with the driving, even when I am heading to a place I know very well. This I do for traffic delays etc. I suppose it has saved me from fishing up at the wrong addresses as I have a better excuse than most, nothing to do with “Multi-Focusing” I have reached the age of “Silly old man”.
    Though years ago when I sat in front of my computer working out the “Taxi shifts with drivers and cars available”. I would turn my hand to computer Solitaire; this I would tell my wife cleared my head. It did help me to gets my thinking around the problems that that crop up when running one’s own business.
    Maybe it makes your point of “Multi-Focusing” over “Multi-Tasking”.

  21. I’ve gotten turned around at that McDonald’s at the midway point on the Turner turnpike and gotten back on the wrong side heading the wrong way more times than I’d like to admit.

    • R. A. Meenan on September 10, 2014 at 7:22 pm
    • Reply

    I’m a university professor, and up until recently, my students used to read an article talking about how “bad” multitasking is. I always asked them if they agreed and nine times out of ten, they didn’t. They always described their multitasking activities. Though, funnily enough, their activities were really more like the ones you described. They multitasked, but they didn’t multifocus.

    I’ve also found that being ADHD like I am, I can multi focus fairly well, though I try not to do it very often. When I do, I sometimes end up with writing that’s better off deleted than edited. =P

    Great post as always!

  22. I’m probably wrong, but I always thought the two (multi-tasking and multi-focusing) were the same thing. In any case, I’ve found a solution to the problem. I’m getting rid of two arms of the social-media octopus; Youtube and Google+. I decided it while I was at work. If I get rid of those two arms I will be free to focus on what I want to do!

  23. Reblogged this on One Thing Or Another and commented:
    ADORABLE and Informative at the same time. That is, if you believe cats can read eachother’s minds. Heck, I’d sooner read a CAT’S mind than some of the people I share an elevator with, in my building. ANYWHO…. adorable!

  24. I once ended up at D/FW airport when I was supposed to be headed to Amarillo and I went to visit an Aunt in Marshall, Texas and ended up in Shreveport. And I drove past my own house to the tune of about 4 miles. Don’t feel bad.

  25. I frequently read while I eat – in fact, it has been said that if I didn’t have books, I’d starve to death. It is one of the tragedies of life that I can’t read while doing housework. I’ve heard audiobooks are good, but I don’t have any carry-around audiobook playing devices, and bellowing from another room is bad manners even for an electronic device 🙂

    1. Hi Deborah; Tell me about it! Writing while doing dishes or cleaning. I was just thinking that when I was doing my lunch dishes. Why do I have to do all these…household things when I want to write.

      There are digital downloads for books, but I don’t think I’d know the HOW TO’s of downloading even if I had the device. My 8 year old niece probably knows more than I do.

  26. When I was pregnant, it was the WORST. I actually got in the shower with my socks on once. I love lists, but when mine get overly ambitious, I feel swamped. So…top three things of the day, then ‘want to dos’…then…..”someday dos”.

    • Michele Hathaway on September 14, 2014 at 9:53 am
    • Reply

    I can’t tell you how relieved I am that someone else puts the wrong things in the fridge. Maybe it’s not early onset of Alzheimers. The distinction between multi-task and multi-focus labels a vague notion I’ve been trying to define–thank you so much! And thank you for the window into Dust Bunny theology. Put a chuckle into my day.

    1. It’s science 😀 . Okay “science”.

  27. I can’t beat accidentally driving to Missouri, despite the fact that I used to live in Kansas just 40 minutes from Missouri. But I have driven beyond my exit a few times.

    Your multi-tasking makes a lot of sense if one of those tasks are mindless. I like to do things while also watching TV. I also make lists and try to keep to a schedule. The hardest part sometimes is trying to find motivation. I have yet to find the best way for me to get motivated.

  28. Well, my parents once accidentally drove to Belgium (they were headed for the Netherlands). Then they had to stop and ask a “lady of the night” how to find their hotel when they finally arrived in the right city. 🙂

    I fully agree with the not mixing two thinking tasks. It causes nothing but grief! The only part of your formula that I am lacking is the “enough sleep.” Between my child and my husband, I just can’t seem to put together two good night’s sleep in a row. I think once I can, this being fruitful thing might really take off.

  29. Reblogged this on Sunflowers for Moira and commented:
    This is such a great post from one of my favorite blogs.

  30. This really hit home for me. I love to make lists and it does help to prioritize and do the things that need to get done first.. As I’m writing (Oops! correction, I just applied your ‘Kiss Your ‘As’ Goodbye’ article). I have a small list I keep next to my computer: write, rewrite, revise, edit and research and it helps get my writing done. Thanks you for the great article.

  31. I love you, Kristen! I’ve been trying to express this same thing for years – people think I’m BUSY, because I do a lot…

    But I have a very relaxed life. I am mostly engaged in things I love to do, and those that are beneficial for my health and the peaceful coexistence of our family.

    Mostly, I know how my mind and my life work, and I use lists and goals…although not so much routine as a rhythm that fits better with my family life.

    “Life – No One Gets Out Alive” ought to be a bumper sticker!

    Thanks for the laughs, and the deeper message. You rock, WANA MAMA! =)

  32. Reblogged this on shanjeniah and commented:
    As another round of ROW80, and another NaNoWriMo approach, a timely (and really funny!) post about fruitfulness….and there are Bonus Felines, too!

  1. […] Writers and Other Multitaskers ~ @ Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Multi-Tasking vs. Multi-Focusing – Be Fruitful Not Busy. Kristen always dishes the tough love with a healthy dose of humor. As a writer, she’s one of my […]

  2. […] the first time around because your mind was busy storing data. Remember, people can multi-task, but not multi-focus, which means you need to keep your safety-minded brain on one thing at a time through all of the […]

  3. […] Multi-tasking vs Multi-focusing. I am a terrible multi-tasker. Kristen Lamb explains the difference from a writer’s point of view. […]

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.