(Continued from here: For years we have been trying to do more with less. We, as employees, entrepreneurs, and parents seek to multitask and get more done in less time. The Great American Dream was to increase productivity and leisure time – but that hasn’t worked out so well. We thought we could systematize industry and agriculture, and allow ourselves shorter work weeks and more time to pursue self actualization.)
Being a paramedic has helped me in this area:
As an emergency services responder, I often have to multi-task. I’ve found however, that I can not multi-think. There’s a difference and I believe it applies to other professions and to parenting.
When I’m treating a critical patient, I will often try to be as efficient and quick as possible. This may mean simultaneously setting up an IV, applying EKG leads, and directing my partner in tasks. Yet when it comes to assessment, I have to narrow my focus. When I listen to lungs, I have to concentrate on that. When I’m reading a 12-Lead EKG, I have to focus on a systematic method of interpretation. If I try to listen to lungs, while calculating a drug dosage and reading an EKG, I’m likely to do one of these very poorly – with very negative outcomes.
“If I don’t arrive, I’m not doing anyone any good”
It’s the same when I’m responding to a call. From the time the call first comes in, my first task is to determine the address, map it (whether on paper, the computer, or in my head), then to respond to that address safely and quickly. Certain calls will compete for my attention and distract me from arriving safely and quickly. If I don’t arrive, I’m not doing anyone any good. I have to arrive – which translates into safety – and the quicker the better. But distractions reduce my odds of arriving.
When the dispatcher tells us there is a baby not breathing, or another terrible event, it is easy to let one’s mind get ahead of itself. I start thinking about the tragedy unfolding, the parents, the child, the crying, the pain – and suddenly, I’m not watching traffic like I should, I make navigation errors, and I’m not being safe, or quick. I have disciplined myself to think instead about the task right before me – responding safely and quickly. Then, once we are on the road, and the traffic and geography allow, I will think about treatment options, review drug dosages, and plan for rapid assessment and treatment of my patient. But until I arrive on scene, I always make safe and rapid response my priority.
You work so you can provide for your family, not the other way around. Your family does not exist so you can have a career. You do chores around the house for the sake of your family – your family is not the cause of your chores. Everything you do is for you and/or your family. Your family is not a distraction from those things – you do those things for your family.
“your kids are the reason you’re running these errands…”
So, if you’re at a soccer game, be at the soccer game. A Quick call from a coworker is to be expected – but keep it quick. Set good boundaries with your colleagues and don’t let them dominate your time with your family. The same with evenings and weekends.
When you’re in the car and running errands, remember, your kids are why you’re running these errands – they are not making your life harder – they are the reason you are here. Don’t subordinate your kids to your tasks, prioritize your kids above your tasks. Be available for them as you run your errands, drive around, and take care of household tasks. There may be times of silence, but you will be amazed at how the quality of your times together improves.
(to be continued…)
Part 2 – An example from a paramedic