Survival Mode

There is some sort of twisted satisfaction in doing multiple things simultaneously, in serial multi-tasking.

“Look at me, I can do five things in the span of five minutes, all while doing this other thing over here.”

It’s an addictive habit. There’s a sense of accomplishment in the number of things we can do. The hours in the day are numbered, and if we can get through this checklist (and add things just to check them off to make ourselves feel even more accomplished) we’re “successful”.

But, successful at what?

If you’re multi-tasking at two things, you’re giving fifty percent of your energy to each thing. If you’re working on dinner, running a load of laundry, helping your daughter with her homework and scrolling through Facebook, you’ve dropped to an attention span and energy level of twenty five percent for each task. If you’re consistently operating at less than one hundred percent in everything you do, you’re skimming the surface.

You’re in survival mode; meeting the barest minimum requirements to keep your head above water.

water, hand, drowning

Survival mode is not sustainable.

For a time, it might feel like you can operate at a sprint, accomplishing everything you need to, valuing the completion rate above the quality rate, but burnout is inevitable; it shows up in the form of sickness, a lack of energy, frustration, anger, irritation.

Sound familiar?

It’s not all about time management, it’s also about energy management. When we’re trying to fit so many things into our day, and the focus becomes how much more we can accomplish, the important things like connecting with our families, chasing our passions and taking a breath every now and then to connect with ourselves becomes an oversight, or – even worse – an inconvenience.

The meaning is not found in the “doing”. Overloading ourselves with doing lends a false sense of importance and value to the superficial success found there.

Take inventory of your days. Are you consistently pushing your energy into the busyness of life? Are you spreading yourself thin by over-committing, holding expectations of yourself that are perhaps too high, feeling guilty or as though you are a burden if you ask your spouse or a family member to shoulder some of the load so that you can carve out some time for you?

Stop. Start with this.

How do you want to feel?

And then start building your days around that feeling.

Not sure how to get there? Start saying no. Start prioritizing the things that matter to you. Delegate a task or a chore. Outsource the work. Ask for help.

You’re more valuable to everyone when you’re not worried about keeping yourself afloat.

Currency

I overhead a conversation at our local public pool yesterday between two girls who were, at my best guess (and I’m terrible at age guessing), around eight years old. It went, loosely, something like this:

Girl #1: “Hey, where are your Nutter Butters? I hope there are five left. I told you that you had to give me five of them if you wanted to hang out with me.”

Girl #2, hanging her head and pointing: “Yeah, they’re in my bag, over there.”

Now, I can’t for the life of me understand the social value of Nutter Butters, however, I know that they are not nearly equal to the cost of this poor Nutter Butter holder’s dignity.

Besides raising my blood levels a notch or so, this exchange made me pause and think about how we exchange our own value for the wrong reasons.

How many times have you found yourself lowering your standards, or offering up something that holds value to you – your time, your energy, your efforts – to appease or gain the approval of someone?

How many times have you judged yourself as not measuring up, and conceded your own dignity at someone else’s command?

I haven’t often held the “new girl” status, however with our recent move I’m faced with not only building up my daughters’ confidence against these sorts of social exchanges, but also my own. Each of us will be navigating new relationships in our new town, in our new social circles, and in our new extracurricular activities.

The message, at age eleven, at age fourteen, and even at age thirty-five, is still the same.

Know your worth. Know your value. And don’t give up your Nutter Butters just to have a temporary seat at someone else’s table.

cafeteria, table, seats