Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Multi-tasking Overload

When you feel like you don't have time to sit down, it may be time to slow down. However, multi-tasking can be addictive once you've started. It used to be: "how great it is that I have time to read this book or watch this movie, spend time with my family, cook a real meal for dinner". Now it's constantly telling everyone you don't even have time to eat lunch or go to the grocery store; you can't get to class on time; you can't finish your homework on time; one thing after the other. It's not only that you really do have that many things to do, it's also that you want that many things to do.

What????

    That's right. While you may feel that you have this many obligations, you can't get out of this thing for that reason, it's your fault. It's easy to forget that we made the decision to take all this on. Even though, at the time, it probably seemed manageable. For instance: I can do full-time coursework at grad school; I can work twenty hours a week; I can go to the rec center to exercise 3 or 4 nights a week; I can write my blog 3 or 4 times a week; I can do all my homework on time; I can keep my relationship going; and visit my family, and run errands, and maintain a social life, and stay in touch with old friends, and find time to eat, sleep and keep up some level of personal hygiene. It's exhausting, the things we do in our lives. But once you're busy, it's really hard to not be busy. One thing ends, you take on another.
    Being busy isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's productive. It's the American way. Productivity, efficiency, hard work--these lead to the good life.
    But, I don't see that. These lead to stress. Sometimes overwhelming, even crippling, stress. While I'm not quite that far along yet into the realm of the overwhelmed, every time I miss a deadline, cram something in last minute that's totally sub-par work, or cut short a social engagement or visit because I have to go to class or work or whatever, I feel not only overwhelmed with how full and heavy my plate is at the moment, but I also feel guilty. Guilt may be an unfortunate side effect of my upbringing, too much religiosity, but maybe not. I signed up for the class, shouldn't I do my best to submit my best work, show up on time, do the homework, study the notes for quizzes and tests? I made the decision to take the class, so doesn't that obligate me to follow through on those things? I think it does. And while I want to stay and talk to my friend that I haven't seen or talked to face to face in months, I can't because I have to get to class. Fifteen minutes for lunch is insufficient when it's in a cafeteria style dorm with lines and crowds everywhere you look. Wolfing down food because you have so little time to eat is not healthy.
    Minimizing sleep to get more work, errands, or obligations done is not healthy either, but we do it. We sacrifice sleep for many things. Somehow, this task or that piece of homework is more important than sleep.
    I'm not pointing fingers. I do these too. I cut social visits short. I turn in crappy homework done in ten minutes because I didn't have the time to do it properly. While I can do my best to evenly distribute my time, it never seems to work out quite as well as I planned. So, when you have a choice to eliminate one of your obligations or duties from that growing list of things to maintain and do on a regular basis, maybe you should actually consider eliminating it--and not immediately replacing it with another task or obligation right out of the gate. We need time for ourselves. If we can't find time for ourselves the way our lives are arranged now, we have to make time. If that means dropping an obligation or giving up one of our responsibilities so that we can find more balance and peace in our lives, it may be worth it. Exhaustion, overwork, and poor quality of work as a result of too many things on our to-do list are not good for anyone.
Confucius say: Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Hi. Not much to share. I came from a family that didn't talk much, but worked a lot. I can identify with your post, but now that I'm older and no longer have all that energy (80 hour weeks were nothing to me) I would like to slow down, but by circumstance I have been forced to take on more responsibility. I'm tired & looking for an escape.

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