Monday, April 28, 2014

The Manic Mania of Multitasking

I recently attended a Constant Contact workshop Is Your Marketing Mobile Ready? What was the first thing you did this morning, they asked? Check your smartphone for your messages? Did you know more than half your contacts open your newsletter on their mobile phone, spend 5 seconds or less on each email and then move on or delete?

We're all busy and we're all bombarded and we are all multitasking like maniacs. As one person said to me, "We've become an ADHD society."

The Internet is teeming with How to Sell Your Book? and Do You Have a Business Plan? blogs. One misstep, one missed marketing opportunity or interview on Google Hang-Out and you’re not doing all you can, they warn. Lately, authors I don't even know have contacted me through social media proclaiming they've written a book and will I "read" it.Translation:  There is growing desperation out there to be heard in the cacophony.

Keep publishing is another mantra despite the mixed messages that the digital revolution gives books an indefinite shelf life, but the last book gets old quickly . . . Although it is nice to know you have fans and they are eager for your next story.

In a study on how overload affects learning, it was noted that even though we think we should be able to toggle back and forth as a computer can, the truth is that people are not machines. Like a juggler who is moving at varying speeds, with different weights, shapes and sizes, eventually something has to drop and everything else follows.

There is pressure to stay current on publishing trends, what fellow authors are doing, commenting on blogs you enjoy . . . somehow fitting in TIME TO WRITE.  Meanwhile, we're asked to reflect on topics like "What is your definition of success?" which means setting aside time for contemplation.  (My memoir Again in a Heartbeat was born in the solitude of a writing retreat in Kentucky bluegrass country.)

I want to spend more time marketing my books, yet much of my effort in the last year has been invested in helping other writers acquire visibility, sometimes forgetting my own books and visibility as an author.

The questions to ask: How important is practicing self-compassion and jumping off the perfectionist, competitive bandwagon? How important is practicing balance and boundaries?

In Cathleen O’Connor’s fable High Heels on the Hamster Wheel, a woman named Harriet is so stressed and busy multitasking, she can’t do one thing with any sense of accomplishment.

“How did our mothers ever manage without life coaches, bottled water, apps and child proof kitchen cabinets? she wails. That night she dreams she is a hamster on the ever-turning “hamster wheel” of endless tasks and demands from family members, bosses, co-workers.  One day she meets an older, wiser hamster who seems to hold the secret – she whispers one word in Harriet’s ear. “No.”

Cathleen, who recently taught our Women’s Writing Circle creative writing workshop, said she wrote the book to  "Share my own story of stress overload and how I found my way to a life that works for me. In my case that meant leaving my high-powered corporate job and moving into the less predictable world of entrepreneur, writer and coach. My life on overload was missing something really important – there was no time in it to nurture myself in truly meaningful ways and I found I could no longer ignore the pull of my heart and soul to write. When the fable came into my head in a dream I was inspired to put my story down and that is how the book was born.

"Women’s reactions are almost universally positive. Whether in the corporate world or not, most women can definitely understand the sense of overwhelm that comes from taking on too much in taking care of others and forgetting to put themselves on their lists. In particular I’ve received feedback that the practical steps outlined in the epilogue are a wonderful addendum to the main material."

Cathleen includes a short test to assess where you are today on your "balance scale." Among the statements to answer true or false:
  • I often feel that I am not doing enough.
  • I feel guilty when I disappoint others by putting myself first.
  • I don’t always know what my needs are.
  • I find myself resenting others for their behavior.
  • I tend to be critical of myself and others.
  • I am afraid that if I speak up I’ll make someone angry.
  • If someone asks you to help, you should always do so.
  • If I disagree or tell someone I’m upset, they might leave.
  • I feel others are judging me.
  • I use addictive behaviors to manage my feelings (food, drink, drugs, etc.).
  • It’s easier to do something yourself  than to ask others to help you.
  • I find it hard to ask for help from other people. I don’t like feeling obligated.
True?  False?  Thoughts, reflections and commentary are welcome.

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