Time Management

Is Multi-tasking an Over-rated Virtue?

by Nadine McNeil

(reprinted from Apr 2, 2011 Elephant Journal)

Multi-tasking:  The ability to successfully do more than one thing at a time. Interestingly enough, a quick Internet search for its definition reveals that the term is directly linked to computing. Check this out, http://dictionnaire.reverso.net/anglais-cobuild/multi-tasking where:

Multi-tasking is a situation in which a computer or person does more than one thing at the same time.

This past week, we had an official holiday on Tuesday. I took this opportunity to do a bit of spring-cleaning, an exercise that I found to be physically as well as psychically liberating. Indeed, Zen moments can be found while clearing out a closet, going through the stack of ‘essential’ papers whose importance seem to wane over time, washing the dishes and tossing left-overs from the refrigerator.

However, at one point in this therapeutic process mindfulness returned and I caught myself trying to drink the smoothie that I’d made several minutes earlier, sorting out a drawer that held a kaleidoscope of odds and ends – paper clips, shirt buttons, business calling cards, pens, pencils, spools of thread and ah, my red lipstick that I thought I’d lost AND surfing the internet for some information. Oh, one more thing: the anti-aging facial mask that should have been washed off after 15 minutes had now been on for so long that my face had tightened to such an extent, I felt like a mummified statue!

In this instant of my own neurosis, I was bent over in laughter. How many things did I truly think I could manage to do successfully with my energy scattered all over the place like this?!

For at least a decade, one’s ability to do several things at once, under the term ‘multi-tasking’ has been a staple on job advertisements, especially for those in administrative and managerial type occupations…

It is the nature of the mind to wander – this is clear. However in our modern world, we’ve seduced ourselves into believing that efficiency is measured by one’s ability to engage the mind, body and spirit into a virtually schizoid state in a desperate attempt to be efficient multi-taskers!

In the long run, multi-tasking can and does put the human being under a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress, without possibly even realizing it.

Here are a few classic examples that I’ve witnessed in myself this week: on three different occasions with kitchen mittens on all prepared to remove a casserole from the oven, I’ve found myself standing in front of the refrigerator wandering “what did I come here for?”

Leaving my office to walk to someone else’s and halfway down the corridor, having no recollection of where I’m headed. When I re-traced my steps recollection returned, otherwise I may have begun to seriously question my sanity. Yesterday’s latest episode – reaching for the telephone to call someone and then as my hand connected with the receiver, recognizing that somewhere in that mili-second of time, my brain had disconnected and forgotten who I’d intended to call.

Concerned that I may be losing it or having an early onset of Alzheimer’s, I timidly shared with a colleague my concern at the fact that lately, I seem to be re-naming folk:  Cynthia to Christine, Marie Clare to Marie Louse, David Bowden to Richard Dowden are just a few examples. In turn, he re-counted and shared with me his typical day:

He’s drafting e-mail and the phone rings. In the midst of this, his assistant comes in with an important document for him to sign.  Responsibly he must read what he affixes his signature to so he begins that process. Suddenly, someone sticks his/her head into his door asking, “you have a few minutes?” Priding himself on being a manager with an open door policy, “sure” he responds.  Ten minutes later, he’s left with a pile of unfinished business – he needs to return the call of the person he had to cut off in order to sign the document for which he’s only scanned the information and can barely remember it, in fact, he’s confused it with the e-mail he was drafting and whoever stuck their head in the door has gone away with clarity while he’s left in a muddle of confusion, nowhere further in fact perhaps having even fallen behind than he was 20 minutes prior.

Multi-tasking is beginning to look pretty over-rated to me. I’m certain that the growing appeal of [relaxation practices such as] yoga for many of us is the fact that it potentially serves as the one moment in our day where we’re not literally racing from pillar to post … [W]e grant ourselves permission to pause so that we’re able to re-collect our entire selves and re-emerge into the frenetic world indeed feeling more ‘together’ than perhaps at the start of our practice.

Conclusion:  … Give ourselves the permission to slow ourselves down so that we’re able to bring attention and focus to our activities.  Truly, very little in our lives is so pressing that we cannot allow ourselves a few moments of slow, deep, energizing, re-vitalizing breaths.  After all, we are living human beings and not non-living computers!

I’m off to make my smoothie before the phone starts ringing.

Hitting the Brakes

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

I have a Non-Traditional Student (NTS) in one of my classes this term.  I had the feeling from the onset of the class that her taking this course might be a little burdensome.  She is married to a member of our armed forces who has been deployed to the Middle East.  She missed classes due to migraines, missed important assignments and fell behind the rest of the class. It looks like she is going to have to withdraw from the course to avoid a failing grade. This is both atypical and typical of the NTS.

It is atypical because NTS are often meticulous about their work and usually have perfect attendance.  They are the ones who stay after class to discuss various issues with the professor.  Sometimes they just want to chat with someone their own age!  The NTS rarely is late with work and the work is usually in the “A” and “B” range.  The above student had not fallen into those patterns this school term.  I knew that something was out of kilter.

It is, also, typical because her situation represents how NTS must incorporate advancing their education into their current life that is filled with responsibilities.  The obligation to fulfill assignments for a college course seems trivial next to the life-threatening circumstances of a loved one.  Worry, and the illness that may result from it, can be overwhelming.  When this happens, it is time to hit the brakes.  Stop your formal education, if necessary, and tend to those things in your personal life that require your attention.

The opportunity to attend college will always be there.  No matter where you are, no matter how old you are, there’s going to be a place for you in the classroom.  There are times in our lives when we must put our dreams on hold.  But doing so does not mean that you have abandoned your goals.  When the obligations and pressures of your life outside of school demand your full attention, you need to respond to those obligations.  If you do not, you will be unable to concentrate on your studies and disaster may result.  In turn, a few poor performances in school may be enough to convince yourself that you “can’t do it.”

When crises happen, allow yourself the time to get through them.  A crisis can last a few days, or, sadly, a few years.  No matter how much time is required to alleviate the problems at hand, do not desert your dream. Often it will be the dream that will sustain you during those tough times.

Can’t Find a Parking Space?

Community Colleges continue to find creative ways to expand their availability.  In a previous post (“Need Flexibility?” 2.1.10), I listed how Community Colleges were scheduling midnight and early morning classes to accommodate the growing student population.

A recent article in “The Chronicle of Higher Education” details the efforts of Wake Technical Community College to meet the needs of its community by holding afternoon classes.  The article states: “Open only to recent high-school graduates who intend to attend full time and transfer to four-year institutions, the program will guarantee admission to required courses and allow for three-day weekends.”  What this means is, the morning and evening classes that were accommodating the Non-Traditional Student’s (NTS) work and family obligations were congested with traditional students.  This change alleviates the congestion allowing more availability for the NTS.

If you had planned to take a class, but were discouraged by waiting lists and parking problems, check with your local Community College and see if there have been any recent changes.  They are doing their best to help you with your decision to return to school!

Click here for full article.

How will I manage a full-time job AND go to school?

Written January 18th, 2010
Categories: Time Management, You Can Do College
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by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

There are only 24 hours in a day. If you get the requisite 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night, work 8 hours, commute, and have family time, you are left with about 6 hours, or less. However, through time management, goal-setting and planning, it IS possible to return to school.

It took me 8 years while working full-time and raising a teen-age daughter, to earn my Associate’s degree. Sometimes I could take two courses in a semester; sometimes I had to withdraw from the only course in which I was enrolled. But, I kept plodding along. It is amazing how much easier it is when you plan your education one semester at a time.

By planning your classes around your work and home life, you can reach the goal of a degree or certification. Community Colleges understand the needs of the Non-Traditional Student (sometimes called “Adult Learner”). Check with your local Community College. The Admissions office and other advising areas will be happy to help you!