By Tamra Wade
From the Paper Hope Archives
Have you ever thought about why we all have this notion we should have our shit together?
Where did this concept come from? The thought we should be well kept, put together, charming, calm, thoughtful, happy, and carefree all the time? Why do most of us think perfection is attainable or even desirable for that matter?
My thoughts on this run the gamut of oversimplification to complicated theories found in societal expectations. Regardless of its origins, it’s clear that many of us live feeling like we need to be perfect, live in perfection and aspire to all things perfect.
In an attempt to help those of us suffering from the need for perfectionism and overdoing, self help leaders tried to help by introducing the concept of balance. Balance, in concept, is helpful. Who wouldn’t want to allot equal amounts of time for work, home and relationships?
There is a darker side to the concept of balance. Balance in many ways has evolved into another tool in perpetuating the lie of perfection. ‘If I can obtain balance then I will have more time with my family or any activity I wish for but don’t feel you have time for.’
Balance, as much as perfectionism, is a lie too. There is no such thing as a balanced life. There is no such thing as perfection.
Additionally, life isn’t binary. It’s not one or the other. Life is messy, complicated and amazing when we allow it to be.
A better way of looking at easing the difficulty of being over scheduled, conflicted, and other struggles in our lives is throttling.
Throttling is how we control our car’s engine. Webster’s definition goes on to describe throttling is to decrease the flow of (something, such as steam or fuel to an engine) by a valve and to regulate and especially to reduce the speed of (something, such as an engine) by such means or to vary the thrust of (a rocket engine) during flight.
Life gets super busy even messy at times. Instead of aspiring to perfection or balance, think of changing speeds. Some parts of our life require ‘petal to the metal’ full speed ahead while other parts we can let off the gas and coast. Other aspects require a steady speed.
Preparing for a big meeting at work or a big test at school requires all of your attention. This is when your metaphoric gas pedal is down full throttle. All your efforts go to support tasks like these. It doesn’t mean that everything else in your life is at a complete stop. What happens is those aspects and other tasks are not getting the same amount of your attention, thus stepping off the gas. It’s not all or nothing nor is one or the other.
The concept of multi tasking has been debunked by science. Humans are either terrible at it or can’t do it at all. We cannot do all things at the same speed nor at the same time. One thing will always take the focus and the effort over the others. Multi tasking translated is a bunch of things getting some of the focus. Nothing gets full focus. Basically nothing gets fully done or tended to. Multi tasking is not balanced, nor is it throttling. It is false and causes more trouble in the long run.
Understanding how to adjust our efforts to the things in our lives allows the potential to be more forgiving of our actions, abilities and focus.
I can’t keep my life balanced. I can’t multi task. I shouldn’t aspire to do these things.They are a set up for failure. Instead I can choose the speed and effort I wish to apply to any given situation or task. I chose the focus I give to any task or interaction.
Something you can do to help in your throttling of activities is time blocking. Time blocking is where you set aside time just like you would for an appointment to work and focus on one specific task. Your appointment is with focus.
Being able to focus intently on the task you are doing is not only enjoyable, it is how humans are wired. In the age of technology like smartphones and social media, we have lost our way and are changing the neurological pathways in our brains making it harder and harder to stay in a place of deep focus.
Pick up the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. It goes into the concept of deep focus and our neurobiology. I have included Cal’s interview with Genius Network. Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. He earned his Ph.D. from MIT in 2009. Cal’s most recent book, Deep Work, argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the knowledge economy, and that individuals who cultivate their ability to concentrate without distraction will thrive.
Let’s all try to be a little more kind to ourselves. Let’s work on not doing too much at one time in the quest for perfection or balance. The joy is in the process. There is happiness in the doing and the focus. Let’s try to allow time through time blocking to get important tasks done without distraction. Turn the phone off. Close the office door.
Give yourself permission to focus and throttle your life.