Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while may have noticed that I skipped something this January. I skipped declaring my annual word/focus/intention – a habit that’s proved both beneficial and satisfying over the past 4 or 5 years. As 2018 counted down, and even as the new year dawned, I just couldn’t get it done. I had nothing to say for myself (or more importantly TO myself). It seemed I had no head space left for visioning.
Since the summer, I’d been feeling a bit like I was running at full speed just to stay in one place. Someone turned up the speed on the treadmill of my life and it was all I could do to keep from being spit off the back end. And from talking to friends and patients, I’ve found that I wasn’t the only one.
What do we do when we’re being bombarded with information? When we need to fit 36 hours of to-do’s into a 24 hour day (and hopefully leave time for sleeping and eating)? When we want to be Here and There at the same time?
The natural instinct – or at least MY natural instinct, I won’t speak for you – is to multi-task. Arguments exist for both sides of whether men or women are more skilled at this coping mechanism but, without bragging, I’ll just say I got pretty good at it. Driving? That’s time to catch up on phone calls (hands-free of course!). Cooking? Never without an audio-book or lecture to keep me company. I even figured out how to ‘optimize’ my gym time by using it for something else – I’d pre-record my affirmations so that I could exercise my sub-conscious at the same time as my body. ‘No moment squandered’ would’ve been 2019’s natural moto, had I made the time to make one. And yet, that wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted to claim for myself. It worked… or so I thought… but it didn’t feel very good on a gut level. So, I decided to look into it more – using both my mind and my gut.
Here’s what I found to satisfy my mind (taken straight from the American Psychological Association): Multi-tasking doesn’t actually work – if we’re evaluating for productivity at least. Mental juggling, the research shows, actually costs in both time and error commission vs. doing tasks sequentially. This is because the brain can’t hold onto 2 processes at once. Rather it alternates, quickly if necessary, and must drop and pick-up the rules and goals of each separate task over and over. According to the article I read, “even brief mental created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.” No wonder I was falling further behind the faster I went!
And what did my gut have to say on the matter? No surprise – it concurred with my new-found knowledge… I have a ‘told-ya-so’ kind of gut…. I discovered that taking an hour to exercise just for my body (and to listen to what my muscles, and my heart and lungs are reporting while I do it) is enough. That being in the moment while I cook – thinking about why I put forth an effort to feed my family nutritiously or chatting with my kids as I show them how to follow a recipe – is time well spent enough. Doing this makes the chore feel less like a burdensome ‘to-do’ and more like an opportunity to re-centre. In that moment the treadmill of life gears down just a little. And I’ve learned to cherish my time in the car. It’s me time. Last year I found myself reminiscing with a patient about PC time – pre-cell time – when the minutes between leaving the office and getting home were disconnected, peaceful time – brief moments of forced disconnection when nobody could reach you and you could recalibrate between the environment of work and home. The fact that we CAN be connected 24/7 doesn’t mean we have to be or even that we should. There’s no reason to think that toggling between professional-brain and home-brain would be any more efficient than any of the other examples I’ve shared.
All this to say that ‘bigger, better, faster’, the 2019 motto that outside forces seemed to be driving me toward was not the one that resonated properly. I’m giving myself grace for the fact that it took me until almost May to settle on what was better suited. Which is fitting. Because that’s the word I’ve settled on – GRACE. I want this to be a year of being grace-full. One adventure at a time – full of intention, imbued with purpose, and appreciated for it’s process.
I’ll keep you updated!