I used to think that I was really good at multi-tasking. I mean, I could cook dinner and answer kids questions about homework and correct an out of pitch note all at the same time. It’s obvious that multi-tasking was my super power, right?
Wrong. I was stirring something for dinner, having already put the ingredients in the pan, I responded with attention to the child who needed homework help, was pulled away at the sound of a wrong note, then came back to the homework, then went back to the dinner. Multi-tasking isn’t my super power – it’s not anyone’s super power.
It’s interesting to really take a look at time, at how we use it, at our strengths and weaknesses within it. I shift gears very easily. I am able to bounce from one thing to another with deep, intentional focus, to block out distractions and just work. I don’t know how I learned it, I don’t know how to make it better, it’s just a thing I can do. But only for a while. On days when I have had multiple individualized conversations, when I have had to respond to lots of emails, when my kids have had busy days, I am spent much MUCH earlier than days when my need to transition is less.
While I don’t know a lot about cars, dabbling in mechanics can really help with understanding this. It takes a lot of fuel to accelerate. It wears on the vehicle when there are frequent calls to stop. I’m sure there are other things that happen as well, but we can all agree that we notice a difference in our gas mileage when we are zipping along a freeway than when we are negotiating stops and starts.
Guest what? People are the same. It’s hard to get into a flow, it’s difficult to really commit, it wears us out beyond the ability to thoroughly engage. In Time and the Art of Living, Robert Grudin explains, “(1) In planning ahead we should remember that usable time is at best 87 to 85 percent of total time. (2) Long unbroken periods contain more usable time than do short periods totaling the same length.”
I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, mainly because the last two weeks, everything that I wanted to do was thrown out the window because of things that needed to be done.
Well, that’s not all the way true.
Yes, I’ve been super busy lately. My kids are involved in lots of things and their things have a tendency to cluster together, whether because of the school schedule or holiday schedule or whatever. My husband started a new job a bit ago and his new employment has him super busy.
But the reality is I didn’t take the time to be mindful about how I was spending my time. I always have my laptop bag with me, which has a million things I can work on. Being away from the internet is often just the thing to get me really going on work. But still I stalled.
I haven’t been intentional in outlining what I want to do. I haven’t taken the time to solidify and clarify what my goals are. I can talk about them, but when it comes to the steps necessary to accomplish the things I’m passionate about, I’ve perfected the art of excuse making instead of the art of preparing. And my attempts to jump from thing to thing in hopes of getting caught up has left me and my work unfulfilled.
That’s changing. After some studying and investigating different systems that will assist me in being more intentional, I think I’ve found one that will work for me; I’m venturing into the world of bullet journals. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes, but for now, I’m already seeing ways that I can manage my time better so that I can use it better. And, per Grudin’s suggestion, I am considering how to build in longer times, and less jumping around.
Of course, it won’t be perfect: when it comes to working with people it can’t be perfect. But as I said in the first page of my bullet journal, strive for progress, not perfection.