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Make Multi-tasking Work

Let me be clear: multi-tasking is usually a horrible idea. You may think you can answer emails while playing with your kids or, even worse, send text messages while driving your car, but you can't. The human brain does not do two things well at once. It toggles back and forth, losing time on every switch.

However, there are a few exceptions. If you're using two very different parts of your brain, or taking advantage of something you're doing anyway, multi-tasking can be an opportunity to build more joy into your life. Here are some ideas.

Pray in the shower. Or meditate or count your blessings. You're (probably) alone, surrounded by white noise and relaxed. When else does that happen? So use this daily ritual as a time to focus your mind and center yourself for the day ahead.

Stretch while food heats up in the microwave. You could also use this time to do a few push-ups or sit-ups. It's not much time, but that's probably 2 minutes more per day than you're devoting to these things now.

Exercise with a friend. Not only will it make the time go faster as the two of you catch up, having a regular exercise partner increases the chances that exercise will become a regular part of your life.

Volunteer with your family. We all want to spend more time with our loved ones, but it's easy to let family time turn into TV time. Find a service project you can all do together and you'll get to know each other while modeling good citizenship to your kids.

Carpool with a colleague you like. Studies find that commuting is basically the low point of our lives. Unfortunately, if you want to keep your job and can't telecommute, you're going to have to suck it up. Minimize the pain by finding a colleague (or neighbor who works near you) that you'd enjoy spending more time with. Who knows, maybe you'll come up with a great business idea together and can actually start skipping the gridlock.

Listen to audio books (or music) while doing chores. If you never find time to read, but somehow find time to do the dishes, try combining the two.

When does multi-tasking work for you?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, imagaday