When It All Comes Crashing Down: On the Drawbacks of Multi-tasking

Rays of sunshine are brighter after rain. How about a quick spring shower? The one that helps renew our spirit. I love for the crisp weather of new seasons to arrive, however, we have to experience absences of the light in order to challenge the dark. If we choose to allow stumbles to create growth; we become better and sometimes happier.

I recently learned that London (Greenwich in particular) is responsible for the concept of time. The idea of time started long ago when they needed a central effort to distinguish arrivals, departures, etc. This idea of time (and sometimes the lack of it) made me stop recently and slow down. You are trying to decide right now if you even have time to read an article about slowing down, aren’t you? If so, you are as guilty as me.

Many of us have different roles to play. We are friends, daughters, students, educators, perhaps moms or mother figures. And sometimes we play different roles throughout the day. We are lucky to transition from one role to the next. We might wake up as an encourager, turn into a student by noon, and end the day as a professional at a conference. Sometimes, due to a lack of time and attention, we find our roles merging, as I recently did, which can create problems.

As both a mom and a full time staff member at my beloved institution, I sometimes try (let me emphasize the word try) to do everything at once. Last week, I was playing with my sweet little girl at a park. I wasn’t “all in” while I was with her, as I should have been. I wish I would have stopped even for 30 minutes and given her my full attention. Instead, I was texting and emailing responses to colleagues and students. I had three different conversations going on about programs at work. Trying to work on three projects at once and halfheartedly “managing” my role as mom ended up having consequences, as the next 10 minutes would demonstrate.

My little girl and I were on our bikes, riding through our neighborhood streets and watching the sun begin to set when it happened: I felt the vibration of my phone. Why did I have to look at the response right then? What about looking at the road and my sweet girl as we rode along? Instead of taking in the smells, the sounds, and her sweet smile, I was concerned about being prompt as a professional with a quick response. Well, as the fates would have it (lesson learned), my phone flung out of my pocket. Instead of my technologically advanced phone emerging into my hands, it found its place on the street. You know what’s next: my newly purchased Christmas present was in pieces on the ground (visualize my disbelief).

But then a funny thing happened. I picked up the shattered iPhone 7 plus and smiled (not a huge grin, but a witty smirk that indicated I might be on the verge of a breakdown). But I give credit to my response being that of gratitude. My daughter stared at my reaction. She is not even in kindergarten, but she said sincerely, “Mommy, I am so sorry your phone died.” (Thankfully, the recent passing of her pet fish has made her more comfortable with the afterlife.) Instead of my phone rising to heaven or in this case, launching to hell for its not-so-durable behavior, I realized a middle ground was more appropriate. A purgatory-type place, if you will. As angry as I was at the financial burden this would bring, a sense of relief came to me, saying slow down.

It was immediate. I realized I not only needed to take a day-at-a-time approach, but a one-hour-at-a-time mentality. I stopped emailing and texting that evening (not that I really had a choice), and instead became 100% present at dinner with my family. The next day, I tackled all the emails one at a time. As it turns out, making others wait for 12 hours to respond didn’t hurt one thing. Nothing was as pressing as the lesson I learned – that I don’t have to tackle everything at once. We all can do a better job of reminding one another to take on one role at a time. Even though it seems impossible to conquer this idea of completely slowing life down, take it step by step. Try to do something as simple as putting your phone away for a few hours.

After the Apple bill was paid, I let it resound in my soul: one thing, one moment, one person at a time. Time in the end is our friend, right? Shouldn’t we make it our primary goal to use it wisely? It is, in fact, the only thing that makes all of us equal. No matter your pay, role, or the lack thereof, we get the same number of hours as the person to our right and to our left.

How will use your 24 hour gift today?