Why I Failed Multitasking 101 (Some Thoughts on Pork Chops and Projects in the Coming Year)

I’m not much of a multitasker.  In fact, I lack the ability to do much more than two things at any given time, too often, only one.

Sara says I’m single-minded—that I’m focused and goal-oriented.  Her description is a kind characterization of someone pretty much paralyzed by anxiety in the face of having to do too much—what I consider too much—what some folks call cooking dinner.

The other night, for example, my partner had a headache, so I promised to prepare the pork chops she’d thawed in the refrigerator.  She suggested that I fry some red potatoes stored in a basket by the microwave—that I might steam some broccoli, as well.  Pretty simple, right?

It started off alright, at least.

I located the potatoes, washed them, removed the eyes.  So far, so good—

—That is until I tried to slice the suckers evenly, to keep the pieces uniformly sized.

potatoes sliced

I tried several knives.  Were the blades not sharp enough, or did I merely possess the most pathetic cutting technique this side of accidental amputation?  I was flustered.  I was flabbergasted.  I lacked the necessary skill.

I may have said an ugly word—or two.  Profanity may have been uttered.

Poor Sara—her head pounding—had to deal with me yelling how I needed help—that I was trashing the broccoli side dish—too much to do at once.  Wielding a meat cleaver in one hand, a paring knife in the other, I insisted I’d be lucky to get the pork chops in the skillet with all this potato making madness.

pork chops IMG_3811

Sara and I ended up arguing.  I tried to help but morphed into a head-ache maker all my own.  Frantic and frenzied potato slicing pushed this single-minded perfectionist off a culinary cliff.

But why does all of this matter?

Because you may have noticed my absence from the blogosphere, my being AWOL from what you yourself have written in recent weeks.  It all boils down to this.  Not only can’t I walk and talk at the same time, I can’t see and breathe simultaneously either.  How dare the universe expect so much of single-minded me!

So, here’s the deal—Sara and I have something exciting on the horizon—something on which I need to focus—forget the pork chops—pitch the side dish.

What can I say?  I blame it all on remnants of my mental illness—an inability to focus reduced to driven-ness, a sick insistence that I do just one thing and do it super-duper well.  God knows, if you can only complete a single task, you had better do it well.  Damn well—dinner notwithstanding.

While Sara thrives on the hot seat, it does little more than fry my forever-widening ass–too many fried potatoes, I suppose.

But this project has impacted everything, sometimes my writing, too often, my ability to partake of posts I know you’ve written.

I hate this about myself, but if I’ve learned one thing in recent years, it’s that I need to bank on my ability to focus on a single effort and leave all others to the multitasking half of my relationship.  I do my one important part.  I do it well.

To hell with all the rest.  That’s why God made the Sara’s of this world.  Right?

So forgive my recent absence.   Forgive my failing to read the great stuff you’ve undoubtedly written—I’ve had potatoes to fry.  I’ve had dinners to serve.

I promise our kitchen will be full of good smells and plenty of promise in the coming days.  Stay-tuned.  Pull up a stool.  Here’s a heaping helping of the best, damn hash browns you’ve ever had.

A pork-chop-portioned announcement should be coming in February.

In the meantime, please be patient.  The timer on my stove is buzzing.  God-forbid that I let dinner burn.

What’s your strategy for managing stress?  Are you good at multi-tasking?  How do you and your partner divvy up duties during busy times?

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84 thoughts on “Why I Failed Multitasking 101 (Some Thoughts on Pork Chops and Projects in the Coming Year)

  1. The potatoes look cut to me! ;)

    Stress? Do we have to do it well to do it?

    I think I tend to enjoy doing “one” thing at a time. Though I can multi-task I prefer not to. Doing one thing and enjoying it (work, play, life) is less stressful though not stress less.

    And by the way…hallelujah! You are back! :)

  2. There is no perfect slice, they are always uneven sizes, of course you could use a Mandoline (slicer) !
    What I do to deal with stress, believe it or not I cook! Most likely I take a walk with the doggies Muffin & Riley, they sniffin about, me viewing and photographing everything…

    you must multi task because you are creative, making art is the process of Multi tasking, even through one project, the are different elements to have and hand in different stages of readiness…

    I don’t know what you new project is but I am sure it will all unfold naturally !
    Happy New Year!

    • The problem that I didn’t get into was my inability to find my mandoline. I used to have a great one. The only one I could find that night was broken.

      Sara also cooks to relax. NOT me–obviously. LOL And, goodness, do I ever benefit from her culinary efforts to destress. Yummy!

      Lots to be said for dog walking, as well. I’ll fill you in on what’s going on via a FB message. I’m excited and can’t wait to shout it from the house tops. Happy New Year, my friend.

  3. I am very intrigued now about what is to come in February and I am excited for you and Sara!!! :-) I am a fairly good multi tasker and I usually have done pretty well under pressure when I have a lot of things going on at once and have deadlines to meet. Haven’t had too many of those situations lately since I am not in the working world right now but there are still plenty of things to organize and coordinate. I realize not everyone has that skill and that is okay with me!!! It would be boring if we were all alike, wouldn’t it?? At least you did not slice anything other than the potatoes–that would be MY thing! Happy 2013!

    • Sara has been good for me–as she just tells me to not attempt multitasking. I’m just that bad, so it helps when she doesn’t expect it of me. I require much more of myself than she ever does.

      I would suspect you’re good at multitasking. But, yes, how boring it would be if we were all alike.

      Thanks for your support and interest, Beth Ann–and for the FB message!

    • Oh, thank you so much! I’m delighted that you enjoyed my post–and found it entertaining. And the “best” in the past twelve months–that’s saying a lot! You have made my day, as well, with your comment. Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon!

  4. multitasking is greatly over rated in my opinion. We have a lovely expression in French “chaque chose en son temps” Each thing in its own time! So take a breath, focus on what you do best and next time make peanut butter toast for supper or canned soup and leave the chopping and cutting for Sara the next day. Looking forward to what you have planned because I know it will be special, just like you are.

  5. I tend to be unable to focus on only one thing – even when it really needs my full attention – and flit from one activity to another, getting nothing much accomplished. I am working on a technique using a timer to keep me focused for short periods of time. We’ll see. Good luck with your project!

    • Fascinating, Cindy–sounds like you have the opposite problem. I suppose both are equally challenging to deal with. Your timer technique sounds like a good one. I’ll be curious to hear how it works. Thanks, Cindy–great to hear from you today. Happy New Year, my friend.

  6. Look forward to hearing about your and Sara’s project, Kathy. Sounds like an exciting start to 2013.

    I cannot multitask. Period. I try to focus on what’s in front of me, finish it and move to the next thing.

    • Oh, Andra, thank you for your comment. I’m so glad I’m not the only one. You sound a LOT like me. I simply can’t do it. At least we get things done, right? LOL Happy New Year–and hugs to you!

    • I couldn’t find my mandoline–that was part of my problem. I love those things! I used to have a great one, and part of my frustration was not being able to get me hands on it. Happy New Year to you and Tara!

  7. Kathy – I enjoy the fun you can make out of anything – even cutting eyes out of potatoes! Like Chatter Master, I can multi-task with the best of ’em, but my preference is to do one, single, blessed thing at a time.

    • Oh, I’m so glad this one was fun to read! It doesn’t surprise me at all that you multitask well. I watch folks like you and Sara and am simply amazed. Thank God, we’re not all like, right? LOL Hugs to you, Laurie–and congrats on selling your business!

  8. I could tell you that it is not important for the potato slices be of equal thickness but I know it would do no good. Relieving stress, for me, has always been to stare at a distant horizon….the sea, the view from my Mt. top, a look out the window of an airplane….something about than horizon line is quite soothing. And, when I do not have access to these lovely tranquilizing scenes, i.e. sitting in the dentist’s chair…..I go to my happy place which is sitting on the bluff at my Mt. staring into the eastern limit of my view….relief, sanctuary.

    • Yes, yes! I’m ALLL about staring at a distant horizon. My favorite is the sea–though mountains do it for me, as well. Maybe I’ll have the mountains sooner rather than later. You have an incredible view from your mountain. Don’t know if I’ve ever sent you the poem I wrote about my visit there. Let me know if I haven’t. It was so great to talk to you this morning!!!!!! Love hearing your dear voice!

  9. My goodness! So much fuss over fried potatoes? Then again, my dad’s compulsion over fried potatoes made cooking a nightmare when I was growing up. It was years before I would pick up another knife, let alone a potato. Kudos to you, and I can’t help but chuckle at the thought of you going mad in the kitchen! Best of luck with the new project!! I don’t mind waiting :)

    • Oh, thank you. And you are so, so right. It is a bit much of a fuss for potatoes. I know that’s how Sara felt. Bless her heart.

      I hope to make our news public as soon as possible. I can’t wait to share, actually. Great to hear from you today. Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment.

  10. Only you can do pork chops and psychology at the same time dear Kathy. I do have been absent due to stressors although there were 3 lovely days when all seemed lovely and stress free. Which I take as a promise of this new year. Aw heck..no promises. but whenever you cook up some marvellous pyschological entree you know I will be there, on the stool ready to partake!

    • Chris, you are such a sweetie! I don’t seem to be capable of not associating everything with psychology. You know me, too well, my friend. Can’t wait to dish up another helping for you! Great to hear from you today!

  11. While I am a good multitasker, and am able to accomplish so much while under pressure, I am NOT a pleasant multitasker. I get bitchy. Crabby. Many, many bad words pass these thin lips. The people around me often become headless because of my tendency to bite them off! Anxiety skyrockets in me. Then, I met Xanax. Xanax makes me normal in those situations, however the crabbiness looms just under the surface ready to come up and do its head-biting-off job……I’m conflicted about your news, you know that. I want nothing more than for you and Sara to be your happiest. That, my friend, is ALL that matters, whether the pork chops burn, the potatoes are not uniform and Ohio friends get whiny and greedy ;) .

  12. The old me was a multi-tasking Super Star, (think corporate life and the world of finance), but the new me, the evolved and older and “on permanent medical disability” me … well, that’s another whole thing altogether. Yes, sometimes I get frustrated at my inability to keep all the balls in the air, but then I try to remind myself that not everyone needs to know how to juggle. Someone has to be in the audience. After all, if there is no one around to witness the magic, then who would tell the tale?

    Enjoyed reading this take on your own version of single-mindedness. Once we are able to identify what we do well, we may as well do it with a flourish. If that doesn’t include puttering in the kitchen, then, by golly, go paint some stairs or make cat food tin ornaments. Use what ya’ got, and do it with your usual flourish and panache!

    Sending happy and exicted thoughts for your upcoming adventure. :-)

    • How great to hear from you today! Interesting to learn about your former life. I don’t think I was ever all that good at multitasking–though things got a lot worse post-illness. You’re right–we can only do what we’re able to–tin cans and stairs are more my speed. LOL Hope you are doing well. Happy New Year, my friend.

  13. Darling! Take it easy on yourself!!! For one thing, it always seems to me that you are doing 45 different things: finishing your novels, turning your death-stairway into the Sistene Stairwell, making adorable ornaments out of cat food cans and even creating your own Gift Wrap, for crying out loud!! So … I don’t think you’re exactly a laggard! About blogging/reading blogs, etc… it’s hard, demanding work when you’re doing it all the time and it’s not like we’re getting PAID for this, so give yourself a huge New Year’s pat on the back, eat a big old helping of potatoes — no matter how they’re sliced — and know we all love you even if you don’t get to read a thing we write for MONTHS!
    Happy New Year to you & Sara!!!!! xoxoxoxo b

    • Betty, thank you so much for your comment. I needed these reminders. I hadn’t even thought of all those things I’ve done recently. Kind of silly. That new insight makes me feel so much better. Truly, thank you! The New Year is going to be exciting for Sara and me–and I’m sure, for you, as well. I appreciate your support! Happy New Year, my friend–and hugs to you!

  14. I was worried about you so I’m glad to know you’re back :)

    I handle stress day to day – somedays I’m not so good at it and end up with teeth clenching headaches, other days I breeze through all easy-breezy CoverGirl-like. Yeah not really.

    Happy New Years and know that I’ll be back to find out what’s next!!


    • Great to hear from you, MJ. I appreciate your concern, but all is going well–quite well. What? You don’t fit the easy-breezy Cover-Girl stereotype? Seriously, congrats on your imperfection–embrace it–gritted teeth and all! LOL Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Happy New Year to you and your family.

  15. I dunno, I thought the potatoes looked pretty good. And I really enjoyed the read, too! So how did dinner taste, after all that?

    I am a pretty good multi-tasker, as is required by my (un-blog-specified) profession. But the older I get, the less good at it I am. As for how I handle stress, I have a few approaches: swear, sigh (that’s technically an affectation of the anxiety disorder… or so I claim), take it out on other people, become completely mute until stress is relieved, cry (only privately), swear more… and beat myself over the head with something.

    Why? What do you do?

    • The dinner was tolerable. I don’t think that ultimately the problem ended up being my slicing but a problem with the skillet. I just spent too much time on slicing and trying to do it perfectly. Goodness, I need to deal with those issues!

      Your technique for dealing with stress sounds pretty darn human! I suppose a good many of us need to learn to tolerate our imperfection. I need to follow your good example.

      So great to hear from you today. Happy New Year!

  16. If this big thing is taking you away from the blog-o-sphere, then I know it’s really big!

    How do I manage stress? I like to think I work well under pressure. And I can accomplish great things when there’s a deadline in the very near future. But others need to get out of my path or plan on being the recipient of my stress induced panic! Husbands especially have no hope of doing anything right when I’m in one of my frenzies.

    • I would expect no less of you, Terri! I have read your blog long enough to know that you are a champion in the stress management department. Truly, sometimes I’m quietly amazed at how well you deal with life–husbands notwithstanding. LOL

      I hope to be around the blogosphere more in the near future. The news is big to me–and, I think, will add a lot to my blog in the long run. So, stay tuned, my friend. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  17. I don’t really suffer stress, but every partner I’ve ever had has had it in supertanker size. Possibly I’ve been the source. No wonder I’m single at the moment.

    Those potatoes look well sliced to me, but then again my definition of home cooking is any takeout wthin a three block radius of my kitchen.

    • I would have expected exactly that of you. I suspect it’s your ability to use humor that helps you remain pretty even-keel (sp?). You aren’t the problem, I’m sure, buddy! At least you get to enjoy take-out that is NYC-excellent! Happy New Year to you! Great to hear from you————-

  18. I also leave most of the cooking to my spouse [he loves it and is an excellent cook – lucky me] but last week he was painting our living room walls and I had to make the roast potatoes …so I took a deep breath and I did. And he thought they were excellent. Good lord!

    I too live with too much stress. I never catch up with my blogging. I can’t do all the writing-reading-and-commenting expected of a blogger, on top of working full-time… One of my new year’s resolutions is to slow down. I have to stop multi-tasking and give myself permission to stop and smell the roses…

    • Oh, yes, dear Rosie! You deserve to take your time and smell as many roses as you like or need. Congrats on your roast-potato success, my friend!

      Happy New Year to you and your family. It’s great to hear from you today!

  19. I used to be great at multi-tasking. Now I find I need to slow down and focus on one thing at a time or my head gets all fuzzy and I get flustered. I totally get where you’re coming from, Kathy.

    As for blog reading, I have to do a little here and there but there are just too damn many GOOD blogs out there! It’s hard if not impossible to keep up with everyone. I start up my second semester next week and it’s going to be even tougher classes so I know I have to cut down blogging quite a bit. Oh well, just gotta roll with it!

    Can’t wait to hear your upcoming news.

    • Gosh, you’re right. There arre SO damn many good blogs! WHo knew the world had such an abundance of great talent?!

      I wonder sometimes, if aging decreases ones ability to multitask–but you’re younger than me, I suspect. Maybe you are just getting wiser and learning to slow down.

      By the way, the photos of your daughter the other day were SO darling. She’s a cutie!

      I hope I get to share my news soon!

  20. Kathryn, welcome back even if only to say you are well. Happy 2013 and bright blessing in the new year. You are doing excellently, don’t fight with Sara, she I expect knows perfectly well all the things you do wonderfully and all the things you do, not so well; just breath through those it is what our partners expect from us when they love us!

    I can’t wait for your announcement. In the meantime, do what you can. Single focused, single-mindedness; whatever works for you and gets you through the day with the very least amount of stress and the most happiness.

    • Don’t worry. Sara and I don’t fight all that much, and Sara is incredibly tolerant of my inclination to stress out. In fact, she is brilliant in her ability to help me calm down and breathe. Talk about a huge BLESSING!

      Great to hear from you today, my friend. Happy New Year to you!

  21. Cooking is indeed multitasking but for a perfectionist like yourself why are you using a knife instead of a mandolin? I find that being able to have the write tools for the job – or to recognize I don’t need to do the job myself and can delegate to someone who has a clue – is one of the best ways for relieving stress. It often feels like I’ve taken a heavy weight off my back when I let something go. Although I’m sad that what you’ve had to drop is a little reading and writing, I know you’ll get back to it eventually. Excited to hear about the current “project”. Happy New Year to you and Sara!

    • Great question! I could not find my mandoline. I started getting into that in an earlier draft of this post, but it just got to be too much. I was trying to shorten this. I suppose I might have left that in. Hoping I can share our news soon! Great to hear from you, Lisa! Happy New Year to you, too!

  22. Stress in natural. I hate it and it can make me snappy but if I think about what I’ve got to look forward to, such as a quiet sit down in front of the TV in the evening, then it makes it all worth while. As for multitasking, I’m the complete opposite to you. I have to do more than one thing at a time. I cook dinner from scratch whilst reading a book and paying bills online. I think I like the feeling of being stressed and having loads to do. In my flat, I always do the cooking no matter what but my boyfriend always does the washing up and DIY. He’s also solely responsible for the bins as I have a phobia of them (I have no idea why).

    • It makes TOTAL sense to me that you do the cooking. You are obviously an incredible cook! It simply amazes me all you do. And to hear you do it while also paying bills and reading–OMG–I would be in the loony bin! Great to hear from you, Megan. Happy New Year!

  23. So, are we guessing what this fabulous news might be? I’ll guess that Sara got a gig and you guys will be leaving the country soon.

    I’m a good cook, but when I’m agitated or anxious it only makes me worse. Thank the gods we have a decent Chinese take-out here!

    • Sorry I’m so late responding to these comments. The past two weeks have been insane–or should I say more insane than usual? My post tomorrow makes the announcement. Finally! Hope you’ve had a great weekend, my friend.

  24. Awesomely funny, Kathy! I’m also very single-minded and hate cooking because it requires me to do too many things simultaneously. Ironically (and luckily), my partner likes to cook when she’s stressed. I’m excited about your exciting thing on the horizon. You’re really going to make us wait until February to find out?

    • I’m so happy to hear that I’m not the only one who’s single minded. Thank God our partners love to cook, right?

      At any rate, I won’t wait till February. In fact, I’ll be making the announcement in tomorrow’s post. Sorry to be so late responding to your comment! The past couple of weeks have been crazy around here.

  25. Kathy, I can totally relate. Not with the potato frying, but the business of juggling and multitasking. I’ve been on break for two weeks. I figured plenty of time to blog, to catch up on work (I have two reports with impending deadlines), blogging for work, and spending time with my kids. Well, kids won, but not without sacrifice. And now I’m rushing to squeeze all the rest in before heading back to work Monday. Nearly finished the reports, but not the blog posts for my work blog. Oh, it’s maddening having to do more than one thing at a time!

    • I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am to hear that you have multitasking issues. Hope you’ve gotten everything done. Love your most recent post on your work blog. Sorry I’m responding so late to your comment. It’s been wild around here recently.

      • WOW! I briefly glimpsed at it and can’t believe it! HOW AWESOME!!! Maybe I can come volunteer there some day too? Will you be close to Lisa of Playmart? I can’t wait to read your post in its entirety. So happy for you and Sara, Kathy!!!! :)

      • Thank you, Nicole. We’ll be several hours away by car, but, for example Lisa goes to Cuenca quite frequently–is doing a commission there next week. We’ve been consulting with her for a few weeks about our plans. Can’t wait to meet her. ANd, YES, you must come to visit! We’d LOVE it!!!!!!

    • Thanks, Kay! Yeah, I was bitching up a storm, I’m afraid. Glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry it’s take me more than a week to respond to your comment. My life has been wild in recent weeks–the reason to be announced in tomorrow’s post. Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend, my friend.

    • Oh, good! Hope you enjoy the left-overs! Sorry it has taken me several days to respond to your comment. I appreciate your stopping by. It doesn’t usually take me so long. I promise. Hope to hear from you again soon!

  26. Kathy, and to think–you were TAKING PICTURES of the potatoes and pork chops in the midst of cooking AND arguing and developing a headache, too. Hope that whatever you’re fabulously working on fills your heart with joy. I find myself failing at multi-tasking more and more as I age. What feels right is focusing on the one thing next, and then the next one thing. Everything falls apart when we try to do to darn much. We’re all missing you, but you’re following where you heart is leading. And that’s the best place to go.

    • Oh, Kathy, you are always so kind and gracious. Thank you, my friend. It’s been crazy around here recently–thus my delay in responding to your comment. However, tomorrow’s post announces me news—–so stay tuned! Thanks so much for reading. I will try to get by your place soon!

  27. The potatoes look pretty well sliced to me. AND you took photos of them. That’s more multitasking than I can do with a dinner prep. I’m looking forward to learning more about the “pork chop serving” in February. In the meantime, I hope all of the headaches are gone and you and Sara are doing well. As for blogging and following other blogs, I recently read a wonderful post about how we should think of other blogs as we do friends who move into and out of our lives. We may not see them for a while, but when they do stop by, it’s always great to see them and catch up. :)

    • I love that perspective on blogging, Robin! It’s just so darn hard to keep up with everyone. No headaches this past week, but lots and lots of craziness–the good kind, that is. Tomorrow’s post announces my news, so stay tuned. Turns out, I haven’t had to wait till February.

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