Life is rushing by. Our time does not seem to be our own, but to belong to others: to our employers, our debtors, our audiences, our students, our teachers, our clients, to social media. Are we at the mercy of this tidal wave of activity or can we manage it somehow?
An article published recently in The New York Times reporting on the results of a recent survey, states that working parents feel “stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time” with their children, friends, partners or hobbies.
For single parents these frustrations are magnified. This social problem affects everyone, particularly children, who have less of their parents’ time and attention and are spending more time on media of all kinds than ever before.
Statistics reported on a recent broadcast of the PBS News Hour on how much time children are spending on media told the true story. Of the 2,600 children ages 8-18 studied, on average those 8-12 years of age spend 4.5 hours per day looking at media of some kind (phones, monitors, TV, tablets), “’tweens” spend an average of 6 hours per day, and teenagers spend almost 9 hours a day—more time than they sleep.
James Steyer, of Common Sense Media, who was interviewed on the show, said, “Multi-tasking is a myth,” that “we cannot concentrate on more than one thing well” and “parents have to look in the mirror” and be cognizant of the example they’re setting for their children.
But the genie is out of the bottle, and social media is not going away. So what do we do about our distractions and anxieties over lack of time?
Inject calm into the equation. The main ingredient in that shot is our attention. Our abilities to regulate our thoughts in the midst of the rush of modern life require us to stop, be still for a moment…and repeat, throughout the day. Put down the device. Eat without distractions, away from your desk, not in your car, not in front of the TV. Chew!
Turn off the radio in the car and try silence. If you take a train to work, close your eyes for a few minutes instead of staring at your tablet or phone. Cut down on the caffeine. Sit at the table while the kids do their homework (without their devices), and be still for a few moments. If you make yourself available, they may talk to you more. Dare to feel your fatigue and take a break. Reclaim your time. The world will continue to spin whether or not you are breathlessly keeping apace—and everyone around you will benefit from your tranquility, most of all you.