Over the last few months, that has been my stock remark to my children when they come to me with a question or some other task requiring more than a moment’s thought.
“Are you serious?” my son still replies. He can’t quite believe that mom won’t stop what she’s doing to deal with something over a week away.
I hold my ground, and resume whatever I am doing, because I know this system works. Over 10 years ago, my husband and I started using voicemails and emails to communicate information with each other. It was a time-management, sanity-preserving tip we learned from the likes of Amway Diamonds Shelly Kummer and Kimberly Eaton.
They are busy moms in their own right and have talked at length about these or other techniques at events such as Free Enterprise Days for World Wide Group (WWDB).
Whether it’s a task that we need one another to do, or a meeting that needs to be put in our respective calendars, communicating in this way keeps harmony in the home and our relationship. Doing it in a way that the other person can successfully receive the request, on his or her own time, is instrumental.
It cuts down on miscommunication and missed opportunities—as well as the frustration that comes with them. And, more importantly, because I am successfully not trying to do a little bit of everything, I get so many more important things done sooner and smoother. In the language of Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, I am winning the battle against Contaminated Time.
Last week, drawing from the book, I wrote about another contributing factor to “overwhelm,” Distracted Role Overload. That occurs when we multi-task between our different roles—often to our great detriment.
I first discovered Overwhelmed in March via a humorous Washington Post blog post that compared and contrasted it with another book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.
At the time, I resolved to read both books because I value the learning that comes from taking in extreme ends of a particular topic.
I read Lean In first, and wrote a blog post about Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial book at the time, although I suspected (accurately) that I would enjoy and relate much more to Overwhelmed.
Contaminated time, as described above, is what happens when we are doing one thing and thinking about something else. For example, I am working, but not really “present” because I am thinking about what I need to do to prepare dinner. Or I am preparing dinner and thinking about that set of work-related tasks that I must do before going to sleep.
This is far from the first time I have heard of “being in the moment.” When I took improv classes and performed at Chicago’s Second City, we were trained that our success in this art form relied heavily on being able to “stay present.” That stage training benefited me offstage in my “real” life. Fast-forward 20 years, now as a wife and a mom of young children, I can verify that such a state is harder to achieve.
That distracted, divided existence shows up as the parent scanning a Smartphone while pushing an infant on a swing or the person having a business conversation in the bleachers while his or her child is on the pitcher’s mound.
Sadly, it’s usually leisure time or down time that gets the most contaminated. It’s during these moments when time is slowed down, that my mind is still at normal, if not at warp, speed. So rather than relaxing and enjoying the moment, instead I’m living in my head.
Identifying my bad habit of purposely contaminating my present moment has empowered me to combat this “overwhelmed” accomplice. It has opened me up more to enjoy the gift of the here and now.