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Boundaries & Presence: The Myth of Multitasking and What It Costs Us
As much as we tell ourselves that multitasking is productive, we know at an intuitive level that it's not. The lie of multitasking is that, if we just do it well enough, we'll be able to get All.The.Things done.
Unitasking forces us to accept that we're not going to get to all the things we want or feel we need to. That's a hard truth that we'd rather negotiate with than accept.
But even after we accept that truth, there's another hard part about unitasking: holding boundaries.
This is coming up for me because, as I type, I'm on a family trip. After spending too much of too many days working during family trips in the past, this time, I decided that I'm not doing that anymore. I neither work well nor am the son/brother/husband I want to be. Nobody and nothing gets what's needed, including myself.
Because of the nature of my work, being present with family includes not having devices on me. Yes, not having devices on me is about not mindlessly grazing and checking email and Slack, but even more important is it keeps me from starting to write or getting wrapped up in an idea so much that I'm half-hearing conversations and half-present — which means not being present.
To my left, Angela, my sister-in-law, and my mother-law are getting pedicures. They are oblivious to my presence because they're in pedicure bliss getting their toenails painted, something which I opted out of, which gave me this little bit of focused space and time to write today's Pulse.
Don't get it twisted, though: I did get a pedicure.
They'll be done soon, which means I'll be done here soon, too.
In the table-setting portion of our last Level Up Retreat, we informed our participants that we would not have devices on us during the week and we had built the design of the retreat so that none of us would need devices. We let them know that, if it supported them, we would hold their devices for the week so they wouldn't be distracted. Our rationale was that we wanted to be 100% present for our participants and wanted them to be 100% present for themselves and each other.
No one took us up on the offer, but most of the time, no one had devices on them. The exception was in the evenings because #IslandSunsets.
Many participants commented that they'd never really had a restorative trip before. They thought they had, but then they experienced real presence. One participant realized that just the thought of emails "being there" on her phone made her anxious; she removed her mail client from her phone and hasn't added it back.
I'm sharing these stories because I hope they'll get you to think about how you can be more present during the upcoming trips, vacations, and moments ahead of you.
What might you experience if you were 100% there? How would it feel to not half-do and half-be in the moments you've set aside to be with the people you love?
Yes, it's hard to assert and hold that boundary. But it's worth it.
My time's up. I hope it helps you enjoy yours more.