Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stop Stress In Its Tracks, Day 2

Each day, I am guilty of multi-tasking. I've been known to brush my teeth while folding clothes and changing a diaper, for example. Today, the stress scenario is multi-tasking. What to do?
  1. Stress Scenario: Excessive multi-tasking. This is the most common stress inducer for working moms, I believe. In my case, I work a compressed schedule to try and maximize my family time. This means I will work intensive projects for a time, but then take time off in between. (i.e. weekend work followed by weekdays off OR waking up early to work before the kids get up and working after they go to bed at night OR working during their nap and then having my husband take over when he gets home so I can go to work for a few more hours. Many of you share this perpetual hamster wheel of a schedule. I used to work 7 days a week at all hours of the day and night, all year round. My family vacations were "neatly" packaged in business trips. When my first son was born, I went back to work when he was 5 days old. Even though I was working from home, business was still dictating my schedule. My newborn son should have had priority. On my first visit to my in laws after my husband and I were married, I brought work along - not just checking email, but addressing thousands of business mailers. My husband and I covered his mother's dining room table with promotional mail to send out for my business. At the time the work seemed urgent. But when I look back on it now, I realize I was unable to detach myself from work. Business could have waited. I still didn't learn my lesson when my second child was born. I answered work email through the entire first stage of labor. I timed my contractions while answering emails! I remember squatting next to the printer, working my way through a hard contraction (they were almost 2 minutes apart) on the birthing ball, while waiting on a document to print. The epitome of multi-tasking, I realize now it has caused me to LOSE more quality time than gain.
  2. Solution: Set boundaries. It took me some time before I "got" it. I would perpetually over schedule myself and even our family's schedule. Case in point: I used to run a local studio and a national business simultaneously. Burn out anyone? When children came, I realized even more - I could not be superhuman. (oh yea, and "supermom" - well she doesn't exist) Determine what you can pull back on and follow through. Just do it, as the famous Nike ad campaign exclaims. I cut back to part time hours for my local practice. I also work seasonally. In the month of July, I only work my national business so I can spend more time with my family. I also limit my number of national engagements to 12 or less. In other words, I won't travel for work more than once a month. Yes, I made a conscious choice to chose family time over financial gain. In addition, only check emails twice a day. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I do not care for phone conversations. However, in turn, I ended up chained to my email (my own fault). Recently, I made a sweeping announcement to family, friends, and colleagues that I would not be answering email as quickly as I used to. You know what, no one got mad. Actually, everyone totally understood and agreed that they should probably do that too!
  3. Benefit: Breathing space. More time with family. Down training. I can spend stress free time with my family. No, I don't miss the extra income. I am happily not a prisoner of cyberspace (aka email and Internet). And, I do not feel hyper-stimulated (deer in headlights, anyone?). So am I a master of "down training", that is, making a conscious decision not to multi-task? No, I am not.
I must continuously remind myself to follow my own advice on a daily basis. This is important. I always earnestly strive to practice what I preach, and live by example.

So don't berate yourself for falling off the "boundary wagon". Get up, dust yourself off, and reestablish your boundaries. That's what I do. That is why I am ending this blog now. My children call.

Tomorrow, another stress tip for time management woes.

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