When our brains are running efficiently, we plan complicated processes out quite well and parallel process things efficiently.
Consider making a cup of tea.
1) boil the kettle
2) wait for it to boil
3) get a cup out
4) get a bag out
5) put the bag in the cup
6) pour the boiled water into the cup
7) get the sugar out
8) get a spoon out
9) use the spoon to put one spoon of sugar into the cup of water and tea bag
10) wait for a few minutes
11) get the milk out
12) pour the milk into the cup
13) put the sugar away
14) put the milk away
This is a serial process. Only one thing happens at a time. Nothing in parallel.
1) boil the kettle – 2) get a cup out – 3) get a bag out – 4) put the bag in the cup -5) get the sugar out – 6) get a spoon out – 7) use the spoon to put one spoon of sugar into the cup of water and tea bag 8) wait for the water boil 9) pour the boiled water into the cup – 10) get the milk out – 11) put the sugar away 12) wait for a few minutes 13) pour the milk into the cup 14) put the milk away
Be reordering the process a little, the same steps are taken, the same result is gained, but the steps with the “-” are taking no “time” because in the series version you would just be sitting idle instead of doing something. This parallel version saves a few minutes from the entire process. It is parallel tasking (mutli tasking is trying to do two things at the same time, instead of allowing autonomous processes to continue, like the kettle boiling without supervision).
With increased efficiency, there is still idle moments. I tend to use these to make breakfast, pack my lunch, put my shoes on etc.
There is only so many diverse tasks your brain can track before making mistakes. On good days I can track a good many tasks. On bad days I can’t even make a cup of tea efficiently.
Different things contribute to a “bad day”. Lack of sleep, medication, grief, illness, a significant cognitive distraction (thinking about an unrelated task), pain and so on.
Once you recognise that you are doing this, slow down the amount of parallel tasking to be more serial. Yes it will make each task take longer, but with less errors, it will lead to less overall frustration and less fixing the mistakes.
We are allowed to have times where we are less efficient. If it persists, then it is worth doing something about it. Figure out what is the cause and make the appropriate change.