I am often wondering about the following paradox:
Time-use surveys tell us, that both men and women are spending more time with their children, than in the 1960s. This can be explained partially through the technological development (washing machine, dishwasher), and other socio-cultural factors. At the same time, people are also working longer hours, and we feel an increasing lack of time. This is what most of us refer to the difficulty to “juggle” family and work, or perceive as a lack of work-life balance.
So looking only at the external factors like the time we have available to be with our children, or the possibility to work from home, or spending more time on our favorite hobby, how come we have this sensation of running after our lives?
Time use surveys also can show us that we are definitely multitasking, yes, even in our leisure time. For example men would be drinking beer while watching a football match. Women would read their book on the metro on the way to work, or at the playground, supervising children. (forgive the blatant stereotypes).
I have come to the realization that we as human beings have not made the latest necessary evolutionary leap, which would enable us to cope with this new way of life. Either that, or we have to impose some rules on ourselves to manage.
At a recent conference, where I was talking about work-life balance, a participant told me this: “I just recently became a grandfather, and was shocked to see my daughter checking her emails while breastfeeding the newborn baby”. Before you gasp in horror, haven’t we all at some point become bored of one or other tedious task and sought refuge on our Facebook, Twitter or other social-media outlet?
There are just simply too many things going on in our parallel universes for us to shut off our minds. And real time-off comes from totally disconnecting. And I mean Downton Abbey kind of disconnecting, with no TV, no radio, just the birds and the clock.
I also realized, that even when we are home, and all devices switched off (OK, more likely the internet being down), we are still busy. Because we also have so much more stuff than we used to before.
And then I read an article, where Greg McKeown was quoted saying: “The number of things we can do/buy/keep has grown far faster than our ability to adapt”.
Prices have gone down drastically over the years, so we can just buy things we “like”, as opposed to things we really need. I am the first to admit, my house is overfilled. With books I still need to read, with CDs I need to listen to, and other things too. And so is my iPod filled with apps I have to fumble, and documents downloaded on my computer I have to study, and my worse enemy is my Inbox. Hello, I am Agnes, and I have 457 unread e-mails in my Inbox.
So, as it’s spring, a good ol’ spring-clean is on order, and I have decided to get rid of/donate/sell stuff. Because not only will I be able to close my drawers properly, but I will have to spend less time putting objects back to their designated place.
We somehow need to find ways of getting some of the simplicity back. When cooking dinner, just doing that: cooking. When reading a document, asking your colleagues not to disturb you. Calling people, if the e-mail would be longer than 5 lines. And probably the most valuable of all: prioritize. Only keep things you love, and give away things you like, because someone else will love them. Focus on the most important things you have to do in the day, and get them done, without stressing over the other 100 things you won’t.
Have a great weekend!