Wednesday night I listened to author of The Power of Slow, Christine Louise Hohlbaum speak about her book at a Virginia Festival of the Book event. It was the second time I’d heard Christine speak on this topic (full disclosure, Christine is a friend, the sister of Suzanne Henry, another dear friend of mine). I believe in what I’ve learned from The Power of Slow, particularly the fact that there really is no such thing as multitasking, only rapid task-switching, and that it is truly impossible to do comparably difficult tasks simultaneously. I’ve been working on retraining myself to focus on one task at a time, to schedule tasks and above all, not to get sucked into the multitasking myth.
The hang-up I have is this, however; it seems as if our culture rewards, routinely, people who are not good time managers. People who are too busy to arrive on time are viewed as “important.” People who task switch throughout the day, never spending more than a moment or two focusing on one occupation spend more time than others “at” work – they appear to be terribly busy. In fact, they’re so busy they don’t have time for family, for their health, for rest. And we admire this! Particularly if that incredibly important, terribly busy person is a working mother.
Isn’t that kind of SICK? How do we get away from this? How do we stand up and say, NO, I’m not going to put that person who is stretched to the very limit on a pedestal. I refuse to emulate the model of extreme stress. I will not feel more valued just because there’s an increase in demands on my time. I’m working on it — but I have operated within these walls for my entire career and must remind myself daily not to slip back into my “too busy” ways.
Now I know that multitasking is a critical occupation of the working mother — and to be clear, we’re not talking about reading while exercising, or helping kids with homework while making dinner, or folding laundry while watching TV. I’m talking about the times we work on our laptop after hours, in front of the TV while our kids are telling us about what happened at school. Or composing e-mails while on a conference call. Or checking Twitter, Facebook or e-mail while in the middle of anything else.
It’s much more efficient and productive to set aside chunks of time for these tasks, and stick to them. Really! That’s the Power of Slow (and you should buy the book, and tell Christine I sent you).