Everybody is moving too fast these days. We send documents via fax because its quicker than FedEx. Were hooked on e-mail because it allows instantaneous responses 24 hours a day.
We dont leave the office or home without a cell phone anymore because we cant imagine driving even a few miles without being able to check voice mail and return calls on the road. Why?
Isnt technology supposed to make our lives simpler? Instead, its forcing many of us to adopt a lifestyle thats both unrealistic in its demand for speed and unhealthy in its stress-inducing nature. How did this happen? My theory: Few of us know what to do with idle time anymore. Were so used to doing multiple things at once and utilizing every moment to its absolute fullest that we know no other way. How very sad.
Were a generation that measures success by what we accomplish each day not by what we experience. Think about that. How many of you keep to do lists not just on your desk at work, but on the refrigerator or kitchen table at home? Im guilty as charged.
And how do you measure a good day at the office or a good weekend at home? By the number of items youve crossed off your list, of course. Ill admit Ive had days where so little on my list was getting accomplished that I actually added some items Id already done just so I could cross them off. Its amazing even a bit frightening the sense of satisfaction and relief a little checkmark can give me.
Im the type that keeps a business magazine or paperwork in the car at all times in case I get stuck in traffic or arrive at an appointment early. I cant stand wasting my time waiting. Every moment has to be productive and theres always so much to do. Heaven forbid I take a couple moments to relax and enjoy the world around me.
My mother used to be like this. She was a high school teacher. Not only did she bring home papers to grade each night, she also organized the schools computer club, advised the National Honor Society, tutored students and spent her summers editing textbooks. She never went to bed before 11:30 p.m. and she was up by 5 in the morning.
In her free time, she belonged to three camping clubs, sang in the church choir, helped upkeep the church farm, hosted church groups at our house, cooked, cleaned and attended every gymnastics meet and band concert my sister and I participated in during our youth. If it wasnt on her calendar, it simply didnt get done. How could it? Her dance card was full.
She was one amazing, but overworked woman. The stress she put upon herself to do all this was evident, but it took a near tragedy to slow her down. She got breast cancer. The surgery and chemotherapy that followed pushed her to take early retirement and to stop scheduling every waking moment of her life.
Today my mother is cancer-free and happily exploring the country by motorhome with my father. Its obvious she cherishes life now more than ever and not just because she once feared losing her own. She simply couldnt slow down enough to realize what she was missing.
I see myself headed down the same path trying to squeeze too many things into too little time and never pausing to catch my breath. I know many of you are traveling down that path with me. Lets not go there.
Lets stop judging our lives by the number of checkmarks we put on our list each day. Lets stop thinking of unscheduled experiences like mentoring a fellow employee or saving a customer relationship as time wasted. Lets start listening to sports radio instead of voice mail in the car.
We all need a break now and then. Lets not wait until some awful experience forces us to take one.
Nancy Byron (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of SBN Columbus.