By Teri Worten Brooks
The dimly-lit restaurant was buzzing. As I slide into the cushioned leather booth, I was pleased. We had finally carved out a little family time and I’m thrilled by the opportunity to reconnect my husband and oldest son. Busy servers in white aprons hustled about the restaurant. Deliciously aromatic smells permeate from the kitchen nearby.
Aaaah, a wonderful moment.
I gazed over to my eighteen year old on the other side of the table. Looking down, he seems to be fussing with his cloth napkin. Next to him was my husband. His head also lowered with pensive expression on his face. It almost looked as though he was praying or something and then it hit me…
“HE WAS TEXTING! THEY BOTH ARE!”
Texting has become a ubiquitous activity in our busy, get-it-all done culture. The technology designed to help us stay in touch may be taking an adverse toll on our relationships. Texting creates at least two interpersonal challenges. First, if done in the presence of “real live” people, the texter comes across as discourteous and well…rude. Secondly, texting is a flawed, one-dimensional form of communication. Think about it. Conveying thoughts over a tiny screen in abbreviated lingo is a misunderstanding waiting to happen.
Cell phones, and their equally culpable first cousin, the PDA, give a false sense of accomplishment. We can easily believe ourselves to be productive just because we’re able to shop for dinner, text a client and check the latest headlines on CNN.Com. Oh yes, a family member or two may also be present with us – but we forget because we’re… multi-tasking.
Completing a task in a timely manner with efficiency and excellence is productive. Dabbling here, there, and everywhere just means you’re busy, not necessarily productive. Busyness can be the enemy of true productivity. How difficult it is to finish anything of significance when your attention, resources and talent are divided in a hundred directions.
On a brighter note, multi-tasking can work, as long as the activities are limited to “doable” tasks and don’t involve two-ton automobiles. Texting while driving is just plain wrong, to say the least. A recent study by the University of Utah states that texting drivers are six times more likely to crash compared to those that do not text while behind the wheel.
Productivity aside, the most obvious drawback of multi-tasking is that it affords little “down” time from work and other demands. Being available all of the time, makes boundary-setting complicated. Without boundaries, life can seem like a big, ugly glob of “to do” lists. The result soon is burn out and an imbalanced lifestyle.
After my rant in the restaurant that evening, my husband is working on incorporating more balance into his life. He’ll take baby steps as he leaves work at work and isn’t chained to his cell phone. My oldest son has promised not to text and drive. A college freshmen living in another town…that’s the best I’m gonna get.
About the author: Teri Worten Brooks is a married mother of two and a consultant in Kansas City, Missouri. While a single mom, she created a nonprofit organization, Sisters Helping Sisters, to provide support to mothers. As a consultant, Teri facilitates self-awareness workshops for corporate and organizational teams. You can visit her mother nonprofit at sistershelpingsisters.org or consulting business at tericbrooks.com. Teri and her husband John Brooks reside in eastern Jackson County with their two boys.