Multi-tasking is bad for us, right? Big bad. Stress-us-out-and-give-us-cancer bad.
We try to make multi-tasking into a badge of honor, but that’s crap. All it does is place our need for validation in one 90 mile an hour basket.
This used to be my life, when I was a teaching, mothering, wifeing, friending, volunteering fool. I could teach the children, answer email, shop for shoes, plan vacation, grade papers and mentor colleagues all before lunch. Then I came home and worked out, answered texts, baked cookies for the bake sale, helped the kids with homework, did the laundry and cooked dinner. My life looked like this:
Check me out. Man, you either got on board my crazy train or got run over. C’est la vie.
Then I one day I told Shea “Sure, I’ll have another baby, if I can stay home.” He called my bluff and two years later, I was a stay at home mom with a newborn. I hadn’t quite considered all the consequences:
Some people may see those gaps as an opportunity for rest. But the Master Multi-Tasker has no idea what rest is. To me, those huge gaps look like wasted space. Just having a newborn was for rookies. I would have a newborn and serve on the PTL and a corporate board and turn laundry into an insane art form. I would blog and post on Facebook three times a day and monitor the weather and traffic for all my close friends and family.
Do I have to say that this level of go is not sustainable? For anyone? Something will give. In my case, two somethings before I paid attention.
I was doing too much. Way, way too much. I was trying to be all things to all people. I didn’t want to let anyone down—not my husband, not my kids, not my students, not my colleagues, not my bosses, not my neighbors, not my family, not my kid’s school, not my church, not anyone.
You think that list is crazy?
What does yours look like?
We do too much. And in order to do too much, we multi-task. That means we do none of it well, because we’re moving too fast to really have a care. There’s no time for care! We say yes to everyone on that list, and then we short change them all, because that’s the only way to do it. We train ourselves to believe that rest is sloth, and we forget how to be. Still.
Then we are diagnosed with anxiety disorders and get cancer and divorces and we turn around one day and our kids are grown and we cannot for the life of us account for the years.
What if we just didn’t. Didn’t try to be all things to all people. Didn’t say yes. Didn’t try to balance our lives so that all things are equal. Yeah, that’s right. All the things in our life are not equal. The boss does not deserve the same time and attention as the spouse or the kids.
And what if we just be. Be the one who learned to say no. Be the one who cut some things out, like team parent or coaching or that committee at work. Be the one who made room for rest who took our charts, cleared them out and made some space. And then, instead of filling the space right back up, did this:
We can do less, but do it wider, slower, better. We can take only the things we need, the things that make our lives lovely and amazing, and fill them up and out. Maybe–probably–we would feel less hollow, guilty and not enough. Instead, we could have more space and feel more fulfilled.
The thing I loved the most about this Christmas season was the ground swell of voices talking about less and slower. We can carry that momentum into 2014 and into all parts of our lives.
Do less. Be more. Happy New Year!