Isn’t this decade one of the most exciting to be alive? Not only in the domestic USA, but in Germany, Italy, even South Africa, many of us have complex professional lives, bursting family schedules, cellular technologies to stay connected, even commitments with spiritual organizations. We could define ourselves as a generation really in the ‘Fast Lane’. The majority of us chain errands together and conduct our obligations at faster and faster rates, as Trekkies would say, at ‘warp speed’. In all this, have you noticed what the volume of multi-tasking and continuous cell phone use is doing to our individual levels of patience, tolerance, even our social graces?
Next time you’re in your community, try observing other people as they fulfill their tasks and errands. Do you see demonstrations of impatience over instances such as, people in cross walks not hurrying enough, people at the post office taking more time mailing overseas packages; and, folks with disabilities trying to use the payment machines in the grocery stores? You may see exhibitions of personal space crowding, verbal ticking noises; and unfortunately, actual personal confrontations. What are we, as social beings, risking or losing in our efforts to do the most in the least amount of time?
Multi-tasking is not all wrong but, let’s examine what is truly achievable and the negative consequences. Researchers at the University of Michigan have concluded that individuals that multi-task between 5 or more tasks, which most embrace as the key to success, is instead a formula for shoddy work, mismanaged time, rote solutions, stress, loss of social graces and forgetfulness. The resulting penalties can be car crashes, kitchen fires, forgotten children, near misses in the skies; and, a perceived lack of caring in personal relationships and family caring. Also, prolonged periods of extreme multi-tasking can lead to shorter attention spans, poorer judgment and impaired memory. For the elderly (50 +), these symptoms begin to create a belief that they are developing the early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Or, as parents and spouses teeter on the edge of overload, they snap with impatient responses such as, “I can’t-deal-with-this-right-now!” Reactions such as these damage the foundations of trust that bond people together.
Next time you catch yourself multi-tasking between too many responsibilities, ask yourself:
- What relationships are you at the risk of losing trust or a total loss because every meeting or conversation is conducted in haste? And possibly not at your best?
- How can you harness impatience when all the steps are not defined from professional projects or community meetings in a matter of minutes? What actions can you take to facilitate closure instead of fuming, such as, offer to set the next meeting, ask your participants to each take a task from your efforts & complete by a specific date, etc.?
- How can you practice ‘stillness’ each day to keep yourself aware of others and a part of centering for yourself? Or has ‘stillness’ given rise to the feeling of vulnerability, so you don’t visit it often?
- What personal or family quality time events will you sacrifice just so that you can appear at more than one “ego” event in the same day?
- Have you made a promise to yourself and broken it, such as, the allowance of time for yourself? Consequently, you feel angry and impatient with yourself. If so, can you re-negotiate that promise to yourself? Are you willing to?
- How can you revise your daily calendar so that you can prioritize which tasks can fall into another day, allowing some breathing space in your daily schedule?
- What obligations can you delegate to others, even to your children, so that you have relief from the sole ownership of every task in the day, in the week, in the house?
- If you are experiencing bouts of forgetfulness or excess impatience, how can you pause to examine the pace of your own ‘fast-lane’ activities? Who is going to (who do you think will) take responsibility for your well-being besides you?
- If you are in the Sandwich Generation with both children at home and aging parents, is it time to consider outside assistance such as, visiting physical therapists or faith (soul) based companions?
- What changes can you make to your personal calendar enabling you to practice periods of silent walking or some other means of connecting with whatever you believe your source to be?