Multitasking. How do I get so much done in one day? This is a question I get often. I do a lot of multitasking on the homestead. I didn’t just wake up one day and do this. There was a process that I went through to get from a scattered, unfocused, ineffective person to one who can just get things done. Now of course, I’m not always in that zone and there are days when I’m going into a room and wondering why I am there, multiple times a day. There are remedies to the unfocused mind. And I’m going to talk about that today.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
I’ll keep this part brief as I give you the updates on our animals, gardens and the creamery.
The cows are still undergoing various artificial insemination routines. The first attempt we inseminated eight of our cows. Cookie had just given birth a few weeks ahead of this so she was not in this first rotation. Princess is the only one that took. We did eight again. No Princess but adding in Cookie this time.
We checked the semen and it was viable. However, the bull with the semen sexed to produce heifers was much less active. In the end, we used this semen on our Normande cows and we used the unsexed semen on the jersey girls. We will pray for greater success this time and know for sure in about three weeks. I don’t expect all of them to take. That would be wonderful, but it is not statistically likely. At that point, we will need to think about the next step. We would be getting very late in the breeding cycle. We may continue on anyway because we need the milk to make the cheese.
It’s just so frustrating right now. We plan for births in March and April. If we try again, it would push the births back into May and June. Then we get into the situation like we had with Cookie this year. The cows will not be ready to start the breeding process again in the first week of June if they give birth in May. I think I’ve mentioned this before that we make choices every single day trying to create our homestead exactly as we imagine. In the end, it never happens as we imagine and we must roll with the punches and make another plan.
Dogs and Sheep
The dogs and sheep are doing well. I have them collected together so they can get used to each other. I’m still waiting on that magic moment when the dogs and the sheep bond. So far, the sheep are still afraid of the dogs. Sooner or later, they will cave and become used to these noisy beasts in their space. We closed them up into an even tighter space so they are more likely to get to know each other a little bit better.
I’ve watched the sheep watching me feed the dogs. I even saw one start to approach Mack’s bowl while he was off munching on a bone. He is very sharp and spotted the advance right away. He immediately went to his bowl and growled very ferociously at that sheep and she backed away. As I said, I don’t want them to be afraid of the dogs, but I do want them to respect the dogs and their food. I’ve considered making a separate place for feeding the dogs and that may still happen – likely will happen. But I’m going to wait a little longer. I want the sheep to know that he will only growl at them when protecting his food. Any other barking, I want them to assume he is doing his protection job.
I’m getting a plan outlined to integrate the new goat kids into the group as well. It looks like that will happen sometime in early fall. We will have three new goat babies to add to our family. I’m excited about that and a little apprehensive as well. They are young and small and I’m still learning about these dogs. Praying it all goes well. The goat kids will also have to learn to leave the dog food alone. It’s not likely that they will learn. That’s the point when feeding the dogs separately will become most important. The goat kids will change that dynamic and I will need to get that separate space going.
The electrical wiring is getting moving along rapidly at this point. Scott has gotten the hang of it and that part will soon be complete. I’m helping out by occasionally holding up pieces of metal as we get the ceilings in place. We’ve completed the barn, milking parlor and milk storage room. The cheese make room is in progress. I’m not sure what room is next. I just show up when he asks for my help.
The garden is in full growth and production mode. That keeps me moving too. Like the fruit, vegetables need to be taken care of quickly or they spoil. Fortunately, I’ve had some customers lately that needed squash and cucumbers. What a blessing they have been in taking my excess veggies home with them. I’m about to have lots and lots of eggplant as well.
It has been a while since it rained and I am back to watering in the evenings again. Some of the cucumbers are looking a little worse for wear as is the zucchini. They may be close to completing their cycle this time around. Now that I think about it, I could start more plants inside and have summer squash and cucumbers back in the garden in time for a late harvest. That sounds like more work than I have time for but I will still consider it in the next few days.
I’m looking for my first chicken eggs any day now. Scott has completed the nest boxes and the hens have been trying them out. I think they like their new boxes.
We have six white and one black rooster that need to be processed. That will be enough for quite a few months for us. We don’t eat a lot of chicken but I am looking forward to these American Bresse chickens. They are supposed to be prize winning meat birds. I’ll let you know how that goes.
That’s it for the homestead updates. Let’s move on to the main topic. Multitasking. How do I get so much done in a day?
Multitasking – Concentration is Key
I have several things in motion today. A gallon and a half of yogurt and a pot of bone broth are both long term tasks that I don’t have to monitor. Well at least I don’t have to monitor them after I get them set up. The yogurt has an in-between step where I need to cool the milk and add the cultures. Then it just sits in the Instant Pot for eight hours.
I have the juicer/steamer going. That is full of blackberries. I’ll extract the juice and then make seedless blackberry jelly. It’s a crowd favorite. I also need to process about a gallon and a half of strawberries and get them into the jam pot. That should keep me pretty busy throughout the day.
Waiting on the sidelines are the cherries and blueberries still in the freezer. Grab them as they ripen and put them in the freezer. Putting them in the freezer is a great method of getting done what would otherwise be an overwhelming task. Fruit can go bad quickly so it needs to be dealt with quickly. I can go back later and make the frozen fruits into jams and jellies. I love it. Low stress is great.
So, what is the secret to being able to juggle multiple tasks efficiently?
What does it take to multitask effectively?
A strong mind with skills in concentration, memory and imagination. Everyone has these capabilities. As far as I know, none of these mental skills is related to intelligence. To develop these skills require specific exercises, just like you would exercise a muscle. The more you exercise a muscle, the stronger it becomes. Perhaps there is a limit to how strong your mental muscles can become, but I am not aware of one.
On a side note, I am aware of the physical limitations of memory. Alzheimer’s is a real thing. Dementia is a real thing. The physical changes in the brain are real and strength in memory requires a healthy brain.
Past, Present and Future
Concentration, memory and imagination. These are three mental capabilities and they relate to the past (memory), the present (concentration) and the future (imagination). There are exercises for each of these mental muscles. When they are all strengthened and working together, juggling multiple tasks becomes easier. Staying focused becomes easier. Regaining focus after distractions is easier.
Developing the Skill of Concentration
Today, I’ll start with concentration. This is probably the most important area for me. Indeed, this skill is required as a foundation to develop memory and imagination. We will get to those two in later podcasts.
Practicing concentration is where I always start when I feel out of sorts. Focusing my attention into the present moment relieves a great deal of stress and calms my anxiety. The key is to practice concentration and focus of attention outside of any stressful situation. In other words, you need to train the muscle so when you need it, you simply call on it and it is there.
Trying to learn how to concentrate in the midst of chaos is futile. Set aside a specific time to practice. Make this a time when you will have no interruptions. Turn off your phone and any other electronic devices that may distract you from your practice session. You want to set aside this time to develop muscle memory related to concentration.
First Develop Muscle Memory
If any of you have had dance, music, art, or singing lessons you know what I am talking about here. Let’s say you are dancing the ballet. You did not just wake up one day and perform. It takes hours and hours, weeks and weeks, months and months and years and years to perfect your dance steps. You practice them in small pieces, repeatedly moving your feet, arms – your whole body in particular ways. You are repeating particular motions over and over again. And when the time comes to put it all together into a dance, you are simply repeating those motions in various combinations. Your body knows exactly how to position itself when your mind calls upon it to perform a long-practiced motion.
Another Example of Muscle Memory
The same with playing the piano. Hours and hours go into playing the scales. And not just playing the scales, but playing the scales with your fingers in particular positions and repeating the names of the notes in your mind. Those notes become drilled into your brain’s memory. Eventually, when someone puts a piece of music in front of you, commanding your fingers to play the notes you see before you will come easily. Each note is engraved in its own memory hole along with the hand and finger motions to make it happen. The training embeds into your memory muscle memory what it takes to play a G# or middle C without having to think a whole lot about it. Without that foundation, you are left to pick out a tune and play the same tune over and over until you get it. Sure, it can be done. You can learn the song, but you will always lack the flexibility that someone with the muscle memory has ingrained in their brain.
Concentration is Also a Learned Skill
With concentration, the same is true. Instead of a physical muscle memory, I built a mental muscle memory. Because I have practiced the skill of concentration, usually it takes little to no effort to call on it anytime I feel scattered or unfocused. I can play my mind and make it dance according to my desire.
Your Physical State Affects Your Ability to Concentrate
I say it “usually” requires little effort because I am also aware of how my physical state of being can affect my ability to concentrate no matter how much I know what to do, I may have something else going on that overrides my skill. Perhaps I didn’t get enough sleep, or I ate lots of sugar or I’m in pain and all of my attention is naturally drawn to it. I can practice and develop the skill but I also recognize that human beings are complex and even with the best of intentions and the best will in the world, God and life can step in at any time and rearrange my carefully constructed plans. In any case, even if my life is scattered to the wind, I can regain some control in any situation. My ability to concentrate may not be perfect in times of stress, pain and poor nutrition, but it definitely is much better than no skill at all with concentration.
Here is an exercise that I used to develop my concentration skills.
You will need several items. 1) a candle, 2) piece of paper and a pencil, 3) table and chair, 4) timer. The candle will be burning for 10 minutes at a time. Keep that in mind as you choose the size of your candle. A kitchen timer is fine or even a timer on your phone.
Concentration Exercise Steps:
- Sit comfortably in a chair at a table
- Place the candle directly in front of you
- Place the paper to the right or left, depending on your right or left handedness. Place it where your arm is comfortably able to hold the point of the pencil on the paper
- Light the candle
- Set the timer for 10 minutes
- Focus your attention on the candle flame and start the timer
- Hold your attention on that candle flame.
- Each time you notice that your attention has wandered from the flame, make a mark on the paper and bring your attention back to the flame
That’s it. Practice this exercise every day. Set aside 10 minutes a day to train your brain.
There is no need to keep the paper. The paper and pencil marks serve as a physical stimulus to refocus your attention. That’s all. It’s not about how many marks you make. That is irrelevant. The pencil marks are a way to grab hold of your attention and then move your attention back to the flame. You may want to keep the paper with marks as a record of your consistency with the exercise. Your goal is to do this exercise every single day.
If you run into trouble, let me know. I will be offering guidance on the Locals platform. Again, that is Peaceful Heart Farm dot Locals dot Com. Support my work over there and I will be there by your side to support you in your work. Further instruction in memory and imagination will also be available there. I’d love to help you reach your goals and improve your concentration, memory and imagination.
That’s it for today’s podcast. We are moving along at lightening speed here on the homestead. I’m practicing concentration and mental focus every single day. It makes my life so much easier. I hope this exercise helps you as well. Oh, I need to mention that you will want to give it time. You’ve spent a great deal of time letting your mind move you. It will take some time for you to get ahold of those reigns and begin to direct your thoughts more purposefully – for you to move your mind. There will be some good days and some days when you won’t be able to concentrate to save your life. But gradually, you will develop greater and greater skill. You will see the results in your daily life. All it takes is a little practice. Okay, okay, a lot of practice. But it’s just 10 minutes a day. You can do it!
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Thank you so much for stopping by our homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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