Saturday, February 16, 2013

Write this Down

If list making garnered a salary I would be the best paid women in America. Not only do I have multiple lists I am, at any given moment, managing lists about my lists. I have a to-do list for work, for home and for my writing projects. I keep a running grocery, gift idea, pass word and calorie count list. I have lists in notebooks, on monogramed pads of paper, in my phone and on sticky notes I keep in my van.

Sometimes I rewrite my lists just to make them look neater. I am thrilled when my to-do lists are in chronological order and, on occasion, I write a task on my list just so I can cross it off. The thrill of accomplishment is so self-satisfying it's honestly, a little embarrassing.

Admittedly, all those lists keep me, and keep me looking, very busy. And since I'm being honest I will also confess that a small part of me likes that. If you notice my busyness then you'll assume I have important and pressing tasks to tend to. Important tasks infer importance. If you think I'm important then that validates me. I, therefore, create more activity so you'll continue to be impressed. Often this leaves me drowning in lists, multitasking nightmares and endless activities.

But you know who doesn't care how important I appear? My kids.

Recent research has surfaced indicating that multitaskers are not as efficient as they think they are. As the self-proclaimed queen of list making, this bothers me immensely.

Turns out multitasking is impossible. Multitaskers have formerly believed that they were simultaneously working. This is a false conception. Earl Miller, a Picpower professor of neuroscience at MIT, says we can't focus our attention on more than one thing at a time. What we can do is switch from task to task at an astonishing rate. Unfortunately, all this shifting leads to interrupted work, incomplete ideas and half-done projects. Why? Because some task is always in process and never completed.

Friends, this is my life! I've always got a running list, something to do or somewhere to be. Recently I stopped and actually tried to remember the last time I ever had a completed to-do list. The answer is never! Whenever I get the satisfaction of marking something off my list, I quickly add another task to the bottom. Suddenly I realized I'm living my own rat race!
The reality is the thinner I spread my time and attention, the less of myself I can give to any person, idea or activity. In otherwords, I might have the capacity to engage a large number of projects but I cannot give each item on my list my full and one hundred percent effort. If this is true, I'm leaving a wake of halfhearted, less than adequate tasks and relationships in my wake.
Is this the mark I want to leave in my Iife?

I want to be an engaged mother. I don't want to half heartedly listen to my kids between emails, laundry and cooking dinner. I might be gifted at organizing myself and my life but not at the expense of my children. They deserve more and I'm terribly regretful of the times I've treated parenting them as if they were a task on my to-do list.

I am busy. As a working mother of five active children there is no way I can not be busy. However, I need to approach all this activity with a little reality check. I can no longer worry whether or not you're impressed with my capacity for activity and I need to be careful not to treat my children like they are projects my lists. I must do the best I can with what I have and learn to be okay with that.

So if I tell you no or turn down an opportunity in the near future, please don't take it personally. At the top of my to-do list I wrote, "Do less. Be thicker, not thinner." Perhaps you should write that down too. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

This article appears in The Daily Review Atlas, a GateHouse media company, in Monmouth, Illinois as a part of my weekly colum "Practical Parenting". If you enjoyed it please share?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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