I picked an even harder resolution for 2022 than in 2021, when I focused on becoming a better listener. That resolution required me to let people finish their sentences and not mentally prepare my response as they spoke. Nope. I quickly counted to five in my head without adding “Mississippi” after each number, and only then did I share my thoughts.
My daughter tells me I am making good progress on better listening, but now comes 2022’s more challenging resolution. I am going to resist my daily play of “beat the clock.” This is a quasi-game show done in real life where an imaginary clock in your head spurs you on to quickly finish the task at hand so you can rush to the next one. Besides adding fatigue and irritability to one’s mood, it impairs 2021’s resolution for better listening. You have no patience for slow talkers as you begin completing their sentences, thus nullifying all progress.
I shared my new resolution with my family. “I am done being a ‘doing machine,’” I remarked. “I am going to take life a little slower.” My kids were skeptical, leading one of them to ask, “Does this mean no more folding laundry while you watch television?” I winced and then replied, “No. Folding laundry is still acceptable. I am sitting and relaxing while I fold. I don’t see a problem.” They debated amongst themselves and then asked a follow-up question. “Does not being a ‘doing machine’ mean that you won’t unload the dishwasher while talking to your sisters on the phone?”
This question stumped me. Technically I am not sitting down and relaxing, and it’s true that my attention is somewhat focused on the dishes themselves. I observe dirty-dish-rejects and incompletely dried ones, so it’s not a mindless activity.
My ever-thoughtful kids added that the inevitable clanging of dishes in the background would make it harder for my sisters to relax on the call, “and it’s quite possible that they share the same goal as you. COVID has made everyone reconsider how we spend our time, mom.”
This gave me pause for thought. Was everyone like me feeling so rushed, and by the way, what is behind my need to be a “doing machine?” Also, how much downtime is needed to recover? Maybe answers to these questions would help me change my behavior.
As Google explained to me, we are a society plagued by “hurry sickness.” Many of us feel compelled to work and produce at high speed, which has many consequences including trouble concentrating, remaining present in our relationships, and providing self-care.
And why do we feel so driven to do? Again Google explains that it mostly stems from our desire for validation and wanting to be in demand. Since I’ve been self-employed for two decades, I totally get the “in demand” part. I’d add that our increasingly complex world makes doing even simple tasks time-intensive.
The good news is that if we change our attitude and work ethic, we can feel refreshed. Research indicates that all we need is 4 to 5 hours of downtime—daily! Yes, my jaw dropped when I read that number.
While isolating those hours for relaxation is not possible for me, I have committed to shortening my “must-do” list to only four actions per day. This list is actually an email I send to myself at night before going to bed (which might contribute to my less-than-stellar night’s sleep). Also, I am going to schedule thirty minutes of fun reading before the dinner hour. “Fun” means no numbers and lots of fictional characters. I am also going to let mess accumulate as I tell myself, “I think I can, I think I can.” My kids don’t believe that I can.
I will read about “mindfulness,” an over-used word that must have lots of truth buried within its core. Then I will internalize its wisdom. It supposedly includes my need to sit down while I eat lunch (per my daughter), another stretch goal. I think I can. I think I can.
Most importantly, I will seek to be part of a minority that is not too busy to enjoy life. Pew Research reports a full 60 percent of adults said that the fast pace and multi-tasking have impaired their satisfaction with life.
And because of that, “beat the clock” will become “bust the clock.”
Wish me luck.