About a decade and a half ago, there was a collective “woohoo” about how computers were going to revolutionize work life, particularly for mothers, because they would allow women to work from home, while still maintaining their family obligations. Everyone was very excited about the flexibility this offered and how it would help women attain greater work success without feeling that they were mothering poorly. And then, after some time, the research on this started being published and it didn’t seem to correlate with the hoped for idea. What most studies suggested was that women were not more happy and fulfilled, but less happy and fulfilled, and that they believed both their work and their family lives were suffering.
Why would that be the case? It seems that it was/is because, when they were tele- cyber-commuting, women felt that they were never really home and never really at work. Home tasks and conversations were interrupted by work obligations. Work tasks and obligations were interrupted by home chores and interactions. The attempt to multi-task resulted in a sense that no task was being completed satisfactorily.
We know this in some sense. I think we have all had the experience of thinking we could read an article while watching TV and realizing after a while that we didn’t know what was happening on the show or in the article. Or, we’ve tried to make the pancakes and finish those emails and ended up with burnt pancakes and half-done correspondence. Tell me this isn’t just me.
We think we can save time by doing multiple things at one time, but it really just ends up using up extra time and creating frustration, and it prevents us from being truly mindful about any of the things we are doing.
One of the advantages of yoga is that it helps encourage focus. It’s very hard to think about what to make for dinner when you are busy trying to figure out how to put your left foot into your hip crease and balance on your hands. It’s not a benefit I thought I would get from yoga, but it has turned out to be one of the most important things I have received.
Now, I don’t want to overstate this. I can’t lie. At this moment there are six tabs open on my browser. So, I still can get pulled into multi-tasking very easily. But, I would say that I’m at least more aware of that happening, and I don’t fool myself into thinking that I am getting or giving the very best.