A decade or so ago when I was interviewing for jobs just out of college, I recall being asked regularly by hiring managers, “How well do you multitask?” Clearly the right answer was to say I was a multitasking guru and then elaborate on how many plates I could keep spinning while also keeping my cool. Multitasking remains a big buzzword in the corporate world. Now a decade later as a stay-at-home mom with two kids on the ground and one on the way, multitasking is more often a necessity rather than a choice. But when I have the choice, I choose multitasking as sparingly as I can.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I actually hate multitasking. It’s the worst. To me, there are two realms of multitasking: on a macro level and on a micro level. Macro-multitasking I would define as just simply taking on too much in your life in general. You’ve already got managing your family and living space to worry about – those are givens. Maybe you have a job, which takes up a big chunk of you. Add schoolwork, church functions, PTA, social engagements, and a handful of sports/extra-curriculars for each kid. Squeeze in some hobbies or me-time or gym-time if you can. So much to do. So much pressure.
Micro-multitasking assumes a tighter timeline – what does your daily schedule look like? It’s the result of however your have macro-committed yourself. If you’ve said “yes” to a lot of extras, then you’re likely in your car about half the day rushing from appointment to commitment to practice, etc. You also might say that you’re so busy you feel neglectful of your family – not that you don’t get them to the places they’re supposed to be on time…you’re a superstar at that. I mean neglectful in a disconnected way. With all the coming and going, nobody really has much buffer time to look each other in the eye and smile anymore.
Here’s what bothers me. Simply pay attention to your friends when you ask them the question, “How are you guys doing?” Because there is a very predictable answer that our culture often uses. “We’re good! <big smile> Busy, of course…and tired! <sheepish grin> We’ve got a lot going on, but we’re hanging in there! How about ya’ll?”
Why do we wear the labels of “busy” and “tired” like they are badges of honor? Wouldn’t you rather be able to honestly report that your family is good, well-rested, happy, healthy, and connected? We experience an inner struggle at the thought of surrendering busy-ness for being rested because we assume that people who are busy – the multitasking champs – are people who are most important, needed and wanted. So if I am not busy, then does that mean I am unimportant, not needed and unwanted? Of course not.
In the end, I could not care less how I’m perceived if I know my family is thriving because we’re committed to not overcommitting. We have a two extra-curricular limit with the girls activities and, most of the time, they’re only involved in one thing per season. I set screentime limits for myself just like I set them for my kids because, good grief, I can waste a whole lotta time online. I have a hard time setting boundaries and I’ve still got a lot to learn along those lines, so I ask my husband to keep me accountable when I want to say “yes” to everything. Spending time together is paramount and at the top of each day’s to-do list. Speaking of to-do lists, I check my items off one by one, thank you very much. I’d rather do one thing at a time very well than several things just passably. Multitasking makes me stressed.
There are seasons of being really stretched, either by choice or because of life’s twists. Just make sure you don’t eternally exist in that state of being – the state of perpetual multitasking.
Do fewer things and only pick the stuff you really love. Draw hard lines and stand by them. Regularly take inventory of your time. Start LOVING your life instead of surviving it.
Be able to answer “How are you doing?” with “I’m good and happy and healthy” instead of the American default of “Busy and tired!”. Being rested and having daily free time is not a sign that you’re unimportant or not needed. It simply displays your proven ability to set boundaries for the health of your family and yourself. What is more important or needed than that?