By Michele Ebel
Multi-tasking. It’s the battle cry of today’s women, as we launch into our daily routines of paid work and unpaid work, childcare and eldercare, life and laundry. When we’re on the phone, we’re reading our e-mail. When we’re cooking dinner, we’re supervising our kids’ homework. Even when we’re trying to relax for an hour at the end of the day, we’re sitting there making a mental list of all the things we need to do tomorrow.
I’ve thought about this phenomenon quite a lot over the years, and I’ve decided that “multi-tasking” is the BS word to end all BS words. It’s a total crock. We’ve become so programmed to believe in the value of multi-tasking that if we’re not doing at least four and preferably seven things at once, we feel like we’re slacking on the job. The result? We’re all running around like the proverbial chicken without its head, doing a whole lot of things in a half-assed manner and constantly wishing there were more hours in the day. There has to be a better way to conduct our lives.
In terms of the ongoing juggling act, my grandmother – a wise woman if ever there was one – gave me a very good piece of advice. Years ago, when my kids were little, I complained to my grandmother about all the things I had to juggle on a daily basis, and she said, “Figure out which balls are made of glass, and don’t drop those ones.” That little gem has stuck with me over the years, and every once in a while, it jumps up from the deep, dark recesses of my overcrowded brain and slaps me in the face and reminds me to channel my energies in a more constructive way. It forces me to pay better attention to what I long ago decided were my three “glass balls”: my family and friends, my paid work, and my home, in that order.
These days, with my kids grown up and my career winding down, I find there’s room to add one more glass ball into the rotation: Me. I’ve officially put my own name back on my to-do list, and it feels really good. After decades of always putting other people and other things first, I’ve finally reached a point where I feel free to suit myself. I’ve given myself permission to do more of what I want to do and less of what I don’t. I’ve opted for a slower, calmer, happier pace. I’m trying to work less and play more. I’m taking the long road instead of the shortcut, and I’m making a point of paying attention to the scenery along the way.
My only regret: I wish I’d done it a whole lot sooner. I guess I was just so busy multi-tasking that I forgot to look up and see all the things I was missing.
Michele Ebel: For over 15 years, Michele Ebel has operated an online copyediting business out of her home in London, Ontario. The Internet allows her to work with clients from all over the world to polish and improve their written presentations of business cases, journal articles, thesis papers, website copy, manuscripts and more.