Women can multi-task in Olympic proportion. Current research suggests that working mothers spend approximately 50% of their time doing two things at once. Barbara Schneider, sociology professor at Michigan State University, states: “This suggests that working mothers are doing two activities at once more than two-fifths of the time they are awake …” Interestingly, recent research reports that all this multi-tasking is not experienced positively for women, it is often experienced negatively. Rather than feeling good about all we have accomplished in a day (or even an hour) quite the opposite appears to be true; and our ability to multi-task can actually leave us feeling unhappy and negative. Why? Working mothers are usually multi-tasking at home with labor intensive activities, i.e. we are cleaning up dinner while helping the kids with their homework – and once one set of multi-tasking activities ends, we often immediately move on to the next set of activities. With all this multi-tasking, although we are getting many things done, we are left feeling exhausted, both physically and emotionally with an underlying sense of feeling overwhelmed. Therefore, rather than feeling satisfied and happy with all we have accomplished by virtue of multi-tasking, there is a sense that what needs to get done, day in and day out, is never finished. This leaves us feeling quite unhappy and negative about our lives.
This sense of feeling of unhappy and overwhelmed can contribute, albeit unknowingly, to a sense of dissatisfaction with both our careers and our marriage and family lives because we are never fully focused and totally engaged in one activity, and perhaps most importantly one relationship, at a time. This plays out at work and at home. For example, we are on a work conference call and our mind begins to wander. The next thing you know you are on the internet looking at school supplies for the kids – while on your conference call, with this being just one simple example.
So what is the solution to this double-edged sword we call multi-tasking? The answer is found in one simple word: boundaries. We must create boundaries in our mind so when we are at work we are totally focused on our work and when we are at home, we are totally focused on our kids and marriage. Do not allow your personal lives to creep into your minds and steal your time and emotions from the productivity of your work day. Doing this will accomplish two things: making us more efficient and productive at work, making us feeling better about the quality of our work while simultaneously leaving more energy for our marriage and kids at the end of the day.
Create the same values around your boundaries when you are at home. Do not allow thinking about your work to steal away your precious family time, and the best way of doing this is to stop being a slave to technology. With that in mind, turn off the iphone and resist the temptation to open every email that comes in during “off” hours. Because technology has created the ability to connect us 24/7 in a global world, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t unplug ourselves from these work connections during our personal time – which you – alone- are responsible for creating.
If you do not create boundaries around your work and personal life, they will cease to exist and you will continuously be multi-tasking both between work and personal activities. Be totally present wherever you are, and resist the need to multi-task – even though you can! Sometimes less is more!!
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