There’s not enough time. There’s never enough time. It’s a mantra repeated by nearly everybody in contemporary society. We feel like we are constantly being pulled in a hundred different directions. There’s always so much to do and the exhaustion never fully dissipates, especially if you are a working parent. And when you recognize that time is at a premium, you may feel like you should be trying to make better use of your time.
I know I have. Some of these so-called “life hacks” are fairly common. Instead of listening to top 40 in the car, pop in an audiobook so you can cover the “reading” part of your list. While at a restaurant waiting for your meal to arrive, catch up on your email or RSS feeds on your phone. Set up your computer so that you’re actually pedaling on an exercise bike or even jogging on a treadmill while getting through your workload.
Some of these are more sensible than others. What I’m starting to recognize (but still failing to internalize) is that making “better use” of my time is actually a rather horrible idea. It can be tragically self-destructive, stealing away the joy of life’s little moments. Allow me to illustrate with a rather simple example.
Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world.
As such, I sometimes find myself trying to write (or pre-write) my blog posts whenever I happen to have a spare moment. The thing is that these spare moments don’t really align with me sitting in front of the computer, so that means that I have to try typing on my smartphone. That’s already bad enough, particularly when trying to insert HTML tags or reference old blog posts. What makes it even worse is that it means I am necessarily not living “in the moment.” I am not “present.”
You see, these “spare moments” can oftentimes align with when I have daddy duty, particularly solo daddy duty. If the toddler is happily playing with her toys or watching some cartoons, I could conceivably try tapping out a few paragraphs with my thumbs. When I’m parenting, I can feel like I should be working, just as the reverse is also true. The self-inflicted guilt is always there, no matter what I am (and am not) doing.
So, blogging from my smartphone is a good idea then, right? It means that I can fulfill my duties as a father at the same time as fulfilling my duties as a professional writer. Two birds, one stone, utilizing the same few minutes. Getting more done. Making better use of my time, right? Not exactly.
The truth is that in trying to make the best use of my time, both of the things I’m trying to do will suffer. Every blog post that I’ve attempted to write from my smartphone has always required more editing than the ones I compose on my computer. There can be more typos, I have to add in more formatting, I still have to find images and so on. But even worse, my role and duties as a parent are compromised.
Remember that one of my three guiding words for this year is acceptance. If I’m going to be spending time with my daughter, I should be actually spending time with my daughter. She deserves and requires my full and undivided attention. I should be playing with her. And say what you will about screen time, but if she’s watching cartoons, by George I should be watching with her. I should be interacting with her to contextualize what she sees.
Instead of savoring these precious and irreplaceable memories, I’ll just remember staring at the glowing display of my phone. I’ll just remember rapidly tapping away, periodically glancing up to make sure she’s still there. And then I’ll have to fix the blog post later anyway. That’s no win.
Multitasking is a myth, even if it feels necessary sometimes. Do everything within your power to focus on the one thing you’re trying to do right now and let those other priorities fade into the background. Serial monotasking is the better way to go. Dig deeper, move on, and repeat.