I think this is a very interesting question, and I'll try to answer it.
There are 24 hours in a day. No matter who you are, no matter where you live, we all have the same amount of day at our discretion.
Personally, I am often thinking that I don't do nearly as much as I could. I spend too much time on the computer and I can dink around as well as anyone I know. On the days when I really put my mind to productivity I can do twice as much as on an average day. It is also only fair to inform you that, along with my Productive Days, I also have Lazy Days, wherein my accomplishments for the day are usually limited to making dinner, maybe a load of laundry, reading most of a book, and/or writing three blog posts.
I do NOT "multi-task." For one thing, there is no such thing--it's simply a matter of rapidly going from one task to another and then back again. The human mind CANNOT do multiple things at once [link] [link][link](see, science agrees with me). No, I do not do multiple things at once. I don't really "switchtask" either (going back and forth between two or three things--read the first link). But I do change activities throughout the day. I sort the laundry then put in a load to wash. Then I mix up the bread and set it to rise. Then I change a diaper. Then I move the laundry into the dryer and put in another load. Then I dink around on the computer for a while or read my book. Then I punch down the bread for another rising, and switch out the laundry again. Another diaper, put baby down for a nap, play with my toddler, do a little knitting... Really, there is nothing extraordinary about my days.
Mama always told us that "a change is as good as a rest" and I have certainly always found that to be true in my life. I don't need to take a break from getting things done, I just need to change activities regularly. Having small children facilitates this beautifully, as I am constantly being interrupted to feed someone or wash a bottom or attend to the latest little heartbreak or outbreak of contention.
We all have the same number of hours in a day, and we can only do one thing at a time. As Gandalf said, how much time we have "is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." [link] So how do I "do so much?" I simply try not to spend too many of those hours in waste. It is that simple.
- I do best when I sleep around 8-9 hours a night, and I usually get at least 8. I got by just fine on 7 hours when I was in college, but I don't anymore. I consider getting enough sleep to be a very worthwhile use of my time.
- I don't spent much time preening myself--a quick shower is about it (my morning 'put-myself-together' routine takes about 5 minutes if I don't shower, and 10-15 min if I do, and consists of putting on clothes and combing my hair, no makeup, no fancy stuff). For the sake of the math let's add in bathroom trips and so on, and call it about a half hour a day spent on personal hygiene time.
- I spend a couple of hours a day online--I admit it's often more. I justify it as my "mental health/adult interaction" time, but I could cut it down and still be fine in those regards. I try to have a screen-free day every week or so.
- I do not work outside the home, I suppose that allows me to do more within my home. But I do work from home sometimes (and besides, the people who have asked me how I "do so much" are often also stay-at-home moms).
- I usually put a couple of hours a day into preparing meals. Sometimes more, but usually not less. Good food matters, not just for physical health, but the time and effort and slowness of home cooking is healthy on emotional and intellectual levels as well. It requires a level of consciousness about living which I feel is very important.
- Another hour or so goes into chores--laundry, cleaning rooms, doing dishes, vacuuming, etc etc. Once a week or so I do some deeper cleaning and spend a couple of hours. About once a week I take a couple of hours to go grocery shopping.
- I spend a couple of hours--even three--doing stuff specifically for my kids. Changing diapers, nursing, settling disputes, shuttling them around, helping with homework, or just playing with them... With a newborn of course it's more, but with a nurse-every-hour newborn I do a lot of nursing at the computer, or with a book in my hand; and often one of the kids helps me with cooking or cleaning, or I guide homework while making dinner, so things overlap. I think 3 hours is a fair estimate.
3--miscellaneous kid stuff
16.5 hours of the day consumed by my normal routine. That leaves me over 7 hours for doing all kinds of other things. Some days that gets sucked up by park trips or grocery shopping. Other days it gets sucked up by the computer. Some days it gets sucked into big projects (such as spring cleaning, or winterizing the house, or a sewing project, or a culinary endeavor, or building a website, or canning...), and other days I spend my time with a good book, or long shower, or with friends.
But we all have the same 24 hours in a day. I don't think my productivity is anything remarkable. And now I'm really curious--if you don't have the time to "do so much," then what are you doing with your 24? (If you blog about this, leave me your link please! I really do want to know!)