Yesterday, I was in the front yard, trimming bushes and cleaning out the flower beds with my phone stuck in my pocket. In a span of ten minutes, I received two text messages and a phone call…my mom saying she wasn’t able to watch my kiddos this upcoming week, an out-of-town friend asking to meet up that afternoon while she was briefly nearby and my husband asking if I could run an important errand that day. My hands, covered in dirt, pulled out the phone time and again to talk and reply while my mind buzzed about thinking about all the implications: I’ll need to go to plan B with my kids on the day I’d hoped for babysitting, I’ll need to rework both my morning plans to be able to run that errand and my afternoon plans in order to see my friend. All the while, my kids are playing inside, then outside, having snacks and calling my name randomly for various questions.
During that hour or so of yard work, I wore so many hats, it’s ridiculous, and yet that’s pretty typical in a day of Courtney. I was “home-maker”…I was doing something physical on purpose since I’d missed my chance to exercise earlier that morning…I was “mom” and “cook” and “teacher” (“pull the weeds up by the root, son”)…I was “daughter”…I was “wife”…I was “friend”…And thankfully it all worked out just fine, but it was a very full day and a fairly stressful couple of hours while I adjusted to changes in plans and attempted to motivate my kids to adjust as well.
Every time I had an incoming call or message, I had to set down the rake or the hedge clippers. The bushes were put on temporary hold while I handled the immediate and struggled to shift my mental focus. Thankfully the bushes don’t have feelings and aren’t too bothered when they get ignored. But when I attempt to do that same kind of multi-tasking in the face of my kids requiring my attention, it’s a different story.
It’s so difficult in this culture that often expects us to be constantly accessible to set down the thing in my face currently demanding my attention in order to intentionally focus on the thing just beyond, but infinitely more important.
When two or more separate things simultaneously require my attentiveness, my decision-making or my problem solving, I have to choose between them or pretty much guarantee that my attention, decision or solving will be sub-par. It’s totally fine for my shrubbery to be sub-par, but it’s not okay to let my husband or my kids down when they need me. Yes, my kids do need to mature in their ability to be patient if their request isn’t urgent, which is why we’re teaching them to say “excuse me” and wait for us to respond. But, I also want their memories of me to be more along the lines of “My mom was attentive and emotionally available to me” rather than “my mom seemed distant and distracted a lot while I was growing up.”
So, let me ask: Is multi-tasking helping you make the most of your time, or is it actually stealing time from your priorities? Do you find yourself struggling to maintain focus on a single task? What might that be costing you in the long-run?