I believe that mindfulness can help us be happier people, better parents, and more productive in our careers. And yet, this post was partially written in my head while I scarfed down a bowl of cereal and scanned my to-do list. I’ve switched to another tab on my computer twice while writing this paragraph. Multi-tasking is the opposite of mindfulness, but it’s a habit I struggle to avoid when life gets extra busy.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. The busier I get - or more specifically, the more things that have to be done in the foreseeable future - the more likely I am to buy into the myth that moving quickly and doing many things at once equals efficiency. Efficiency, obviously, is the key to not falling behind, to getting it all done in the appropriate time frame. I forget that multi-tasking often means every task takes longer.
Quality - in the end result and the experience of completing it - suffers, too. And that might seem like no big thing, except when I remember that these tasks are the moments that make up my life right now. I don’t want to juggle my way through my 30s and my kids’ childhoods. How many times have I told them to hurry up instead of taking the time to watch the look on their faces as they figure out how to get their arms in the right sleeves?
My husband and I have started going to the gym together. I wake up at 5:45 in preparation for our 6AM departure time; Jared rolls out of bed about 5:53. I watch as he leisurely slips on his sneakers, looks around for his favorite cap, and zips up his jacket while standing in one place. Don’t you know you can zip that while you walk? I think.
It seems that Jared is mindful about everything, and I don’t recall a time I’ve ever seen him look hurried. I watched him this morning and forced myself to remember that zipping while you walk saves only seconds, but nagging can ruin an entire day.
Jared’s ambling pace reminds me of my poppy. He was never rushed or flustered. He seemed to kind of mosey around a room, his movements as gentle as his words. I don’t ever remember him really being late, either, but rather sliding into the house exactly on time and with a smile. My nana, on the other hand, arrived everywhere in a huff, with hair and hands flying. She was on time, sure, but she never seemed all that happy about it. My nana was a multi-tasker, too, and it also drove her nuts to watch her husband’s mindfulness (and she was not one for biting her tongue.)
What my nana never realized, and what I habitually forget, is that it all gets done eventually. A minute here or there to tie your shoes, or savor your breakfast, doesn’t sink a schedule anymore than those little tricks actually help you get out the door faster and with your keys. And that’s the thing: we multi-taskers are just fooling ourselves, really, using the flurry of activity to make us feel more in control of the rate at which time slips by.
I don’t think I’ll ever be an ambler, exactly. But the busier my days get, the more I think I’d like to practice zipping without walking and eating without checking my email. At the very least, I’ll try to keep watching someone else’s mindfulness without telling them to hurry up.