Jun 26What Did You Do Today Honey?

Sara is asleep (or at least in bed, singing to herself on her way to dream land), toys are picked up, and Gary and I are just sitting down to dinner. “So what did you do today?” he asks. An innocent question, one that is asked of spouses and partners in thousands if not millions of homes around the world each and every night. I get it, it’s a totally normal thing to ask, and I ask it of Gary every day. But having to answer it myself, well sometimes that makes me cringe.

For one thing, I have never been too “sharey” about work. Unless I feel like I’ve done something really great, I tend to want to let the ins and outs of my day stay quiet. And I think working for myself, especially if I have had a day without client meetings or other outside contact, by the time dinner comes, I am ready to be OUT of my own head and to turn off work completely.

But there is another issue at play that is directly related to being a work from home mom. As I’ve mentioned before, my day is fragmented, and could include drop off/pick up at school, grocery shopping, dinner prep and of course, work. So tasks – especially work – get squeezed into short bursts of time before and after my other responsibilities.  This alone constitutes poor time management (and sometimes bad prioritizing!) but it gets worse. When I am in “work time” I frequently try to cram so much into a small period of time that a)I feel like I am getting nothing done and b)I am probably right!

In his book, The Myth of Multitasking, Dave Crenshaw shows how trying to do everything at once really translates in to getting nothing done at all. The process of having to constantly switch between tasks (ie checking your email while trying to write a blog post!) ends up being counter productive; we lose time making the switch, and the lack of 100% focus on either task further diminishes our efficiency. That’s not to say we can NEVER do two things at once – responding to simple emails with the television on is something he calls background tasking and can work quite well. But his point is that we need to single task, and focus on one thing at a time, in order to really get anything accomplished.

So when I get asked, “what did you do today” it’s no wonder my answer now is too hard to give and feel good about, because each day’s got too much in it. Not only is there the wife/mom stuff (drop off, etc) but how do I  talk about the work piece when sometimes it’s just been a constant game of jumping between different tasks on different projects at the same time in an effort to get all of them moving forward at once. Whew! No wonder I feel SO frenetic and drained and unproductive so often.

I can’t substantively change what is on my overall list of “to-dos,” nor do I want to, but I can train myself to manage it better, both the work and the wife/mom elements. And hopefully by rethinking how I work, I will be able to do more work and feel calmer about my days, and when at dinner I get asked “what did you to today honey?” I’ll actually have an answer.