Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pick up several hundred balls and start juggling. Higher! More! What? You haven’t been trained in the fine art of juggling? Carrying too many balls?
Alright, how about instead you just have a seat and join the WebPunch team as we discuss the very delicate balancing act of life and work; an amazing tightrope act all its own.
It all began when Matt was thinking up some ideas for blog articles and he shared these thoughts:
“I think people get torn in a lot of different directions. It's just tough to be a good parent, business person, and individual. Sometimes, there isn't enough time in the day to give equal attention to all the aspects of our lives that require effort on our part. You want to respond to reviews but you also have to pick up your kids from baseball practice. You'd love to connect with the universe but instead of enjoying yoga class tonight you need to write a proposal so you can eventually get money and not die.”
Then Matt asked if the rest of us were feeling this particular subject at all. Um, hello, is the sky blue? So our team started talking (okay, mostly we messaged each other because an actual conversation takes too much time) about the balance of business, relationships, self-improvement, etc. and how it can be almost impossible to fit everything in. Were we feeling it at all? Oh, were we!
Doreen broke the ice and did articulated her thoughts so beautifully that her words inspired both the title and main graphic of this blog article.
Doreen kicked off with, “I think it is everyone’s character to want to be good at whatever they do. We just need to realize that good is not the same as perfect. When we strive for perfection as a mom, employee, wife, volunteer, and daughter, we are setting ourselves up for failure. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Trying to reach that level of perfection will just leave us depressed, sick and anxious because it isn’t a realistic goal. We need to cut ourselves a break and realize that we are perfect at one thing - juggling! We can drive the kids to their numerous activities, have a load of laundry going in the washer, dinner cooking in the crock pot, and answer 20 emails while sitting in the car waiting for soccer practice to end. I am the perfect juggler!”
Can we get an amen?
Then Rachel, who possesses such a beautiful way with words, chimed in. “Each day is a balancing act with all of the many hats we wear… I want to be a great mom, wife, friend, daughter, and WebPunch Reputation Defender. Some days it feels like too much to balance and other days it feels like you are the “mom master” and you have it all under control. I definitely like those days where I feel like things are moving along great, my kids are all happy, clean, and fed, and not fighting or complaining about homework or the lack of food in the fridge. However, I believe it speaks volumes on how we mothers can juggle all that gets thrown our way with finesse, patience, grace, kindness, sassiness, and maybe just a little attitude….after all, nobody is perfect.”
So much truth in those words!
Then Piper piped in. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Piper is basically the goddess of WebPunch so when she says something, we all listen.
“I don't know if I have much to add—these thoughts are really great. I know that I have been trying to work more at being present in whatever I'm doing, because it's so hard to pause everything else. I’ve also been reading about how multitasking really isn't great for us . . . I'll keep thinking about it.”
Then we heard from Lisa, one of our most laid-back and peaceful team members. “GREAT thoughts from you all. I have been reading about how multitasking is not good for the brain, as well. Very HARD for me to NOT multi-task, however. Organization is KEY, which I am still working on . . . Unfortunately, organization does not always work given all of the things that life throws at us unexpectedly.”
So much wisdom and emotional intelligence oozing from the WebPunch Team.
Here's what a Forbes article has to say about multitasking:
“It turns out that 98% of the population doesn’t multitask very well. For most of us, we’re not really multi-tasking – we’re actually shifting back and forth from one task to another, such as typing an email and then listening to that conference call conversation, then back to our email and so on.The problem with trying to multitask is all that shifting back and forth between tasks isn’t all that efficient because, each time we do it, it takes our brain some time to refocus. So while it might seem efficient on the surface, it isn’t—studies show that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.”
Piper and Lisa are right, multitasking isn’t helping us, and the science behind why is compelling. Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, explains it this way, “When we attempt to multitask, we don’t actually do more than one activity at once, but quickly switch between them. And this switching is exhausting. It uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, running down the same fuel that’s needed to focus on a task. That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing.”
If you want a good reason to stop multitasking, we’ve got it—it lowers your IQ. That’s right, multitasking actually lowers your IQ. Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, has this to say, “Research shows that in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child. So the next time you’re writing your boss an email during a meeting, remember that your cognitive capacity is being diminished to the point that you might as well let an 8-year-old write it for you.”
Ginger has shared with our team an amazing way of staying organized; she calls it Silo. You only concentrate on one thing at a time. I used to spend my days jumping from one thing to another; back and forth and in and out. I would write a few review responses, answer a question on Slack, respond to an email, start a blog article; all the while being pinged on Trello and various other in-house communication tools. I started feeling like a ping-pong ball and that’s when Ginger swooped in to save the day. She encouraged me to turn off my email alerts and everything else in order to focus my attention on one thing at a time. It was a game-changer and now I know that when I start to feel overwhelmed, I need to stop and remember to work on only one thing at a time.
Inevitably, we will all resort to multitasking sometimes; after all, it comes with the territory for those of us with kids, or pets, or anyone who deals with other people in their lives; so you know, everyone. We really do have that load of laundry going while helping with homework as dinner is cooking on the stove, llike Doreen said. Such is life. But we're definitely re-thinking the whole multitasking at work thing.
It's also interesting to think about what life used to look like. When I was young and my parents came home from work, they weren’t checking their email; there was no email. There were no cell phones, no laptops, and work wasn't able to follow them home. The only multitasking I was doing was eating my after school snack while watching Days of our Lives. I think one of the things that makes life and work balance so difficult these days is that we are always available. Our phones are always on and the doggone things are smart enough to have email and work apps right at our fingertips. Your boss wants something so you get emailed, texted, messaged, pinged, etc., usually with the expectation of a quick response. Now your family time gets interrupted and you are harshely kicked out of that zen mode that you’ve just entered into after a long day's work.
Now, if you’re lucky like us, this isn’t your reality. Fortunately for us WebPunchers, Ginger and Matt are really big into our team spending quality time with our families and we truly get to shut down after hours. We know that not everybody is this lucky but we encourage you to shut down after hours if at all possible.
So...what to do about the juggling balls and many hats we wear? It looks like Piper’s idea of being present in each moment is the key. Be intentional about how and where you spend your time. Give your full attention wherever you happen to be. Have a deadline at work? Get it done so that it doesn’t encroach upon your family time (Uh, preaching to the choir here). Only take on as much work as you can handle and try to make a clean line between work life and home life, so that stress from either environment doesn’t bleed into the other. Go to your kid’s baseball game and turn your phone off. There is nothing worse than your son telling you that when he looked over at you after a great play, you had your head down looking at your phone. Ouch.
Doreen’s mantra of having realistic expectations of ourselves is paramount. We are only human, after all, just like Rachel reminded us. We all need daily reminders of these things because we are sometimes our own worst enemies and the pressure we feel is coming from ourselves.
Cut yourself some slack, take that vacation, and put down the phone. Like Lisa said, we never know what's coming around the bend, and keeping ourselves centered will help us when unexpected things arise. Work will always be there to welcome you back after you’ve taken some time to savor life. Any other thoughts on the elusive life + work balance? We'd love to hear from you!
Karin Siccardi is a Reputation Defender, Blogger, and Proofreader/Editor at WebPunch. Originally from Oregon, she migrated to Tennessee where she lives with her husband, four children, and the family dog who lounges at her feet as she enjoys the luxury of working from her home office. An avid reader, she enjoys all wordy things as well as coffee, chocolate, and wine.