Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Randomly Tonia

Dirty dishes and a lesson well-learned


Recently my darling significant other and I were having a conversation. While I listened I began rinsing dishes, putting them in the dishwasher and finally wiping the countertops. He started talking a little bit louder, sighed loudly in frustration, but continued talking. I was listening while performing these little tasks that require no concentration. At the time I thought it was efficient to get two things done at once, and I didn’t fully know why he seemed so irritated.

I turned to look at him while I replied to what he had said. When I did, he turned his back to me, clearly agitated and began busying himself straightening the table and replacing the salt and pepper shakers. Then, he moved on to go through the mail and threw a question over his shoulder, “Do you feel like I am listening to you?”

His point was valid and, I must say, expertly made. He reminded me that multi-tasking, a phrase originally coined for computers, is not something that should be attempted, by a human, while actively engaging in a conversation. As we were talking, I made myself busy, busy straightening, busy putting things away, mostly busy not actively listening.

I apologized for letting a few dirty dishes get in the way of our connection. I am sure, looking back, that he questioned how much of our conversation I was really taking in. I imagine that, at that moment, he felt unimportant and possibly unappreciated. My intention to be efficient took away from truly important matters.

He reminded me that he needed my undivided attention and that he wanted me to slow down, to communicate with him, and to reevaluate my priorities. Was it so important to tidy the kitchen that I couldn’t take a few moments for us?

Since that night, I have found myself multi-tasking to the point of distraction, unable to concentrate on a task. I have found that I make mistakes that are easy to avoid, if I’m paying attention. Why? We all have a lot to do at home and work. We’re all trying to get as much done as possible in the shortest amount of time, hoping to have some extra time to enjoy. But, to what end?

Are we willing to sacrifice the quality of work for a few saved minutes?

There are articles in magazines and on the internet about this very thing, multi-tasking, adding pressure to do more and be more. On the other hand, there are studies that show the behavior is actually counter-productive. Some studies show that multi-tasking may actually be slowing us down, reducing our memory and, unless you’re a computer, increasing stress.

This is a time of many fantastic transitions for me, and while I want to do it all, I have to pause and ask myself if I am giving my cherished family and friends the attention we all crave and deserve? How can I make better use of limited time? What am I missing while I am busy? Time is short, and my assorted schedules can be hectic, but am I using ‘busy’ as an excuse?

I share this with my readers to remind them, and myself, that we are all busy and with the holidays approaching quickly, it could get even worse, if we allow ourselves to get swept up in busy work. Instead, I urge each of you to take the time you need for yourself and to remember that a few dirty dishes should not stand in the way of connecting with those you love.


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