Four weeks ago, we adopted a dog. Taffy is a 4-year old chihuahua mix. She is an adorable love sponge, soaking in as much love and attention as we are willing to dish out, and then splashing it right back at us.
She has also required me to revisit my carefully calibrated habits.
My morning routine used to be to eat breakfast at the dining room table while I read the New York Times. Now, when I’m done with my cereal, I take my coffee cup over to the sofa so that I can finish the paper snuggled up next to my dog.
Instead of trying to get little tasks done in those spaces between appointments, I’m taking Taffy for a quick walk around the block, or making arrangements for a dog walker to come while I’m out.
Change is difficult, even a delightful change such as the addition of a new family member. Time devoted to my new little one means time taken away from some other activity.
But that’s not always such a bad thing. Having to prioritize one’s time is a great way to realize what habits can be discarded.
For example, I used to multi-task during telephone conversations, working on the computer while having a conversation or participating in a conference call. Multitasking, we now know, is a myth, because you can’t use the same part of the brain for two tasks at the same time. Now that I am sitting on the sofa during phone calls, I’m actually listening much better, because the part of the brain that participates in phone calls is completely different from the one that is involved in petting a dog!
I’m much less likely to be surfing the net or spending a lot of time on Facebook. Instead, I keep my computer activities very focused. I’ve become a more well-rounded person.
I even got my desk completely cleared off last week. I finally took that pile of papers that I was going to read “when I have time” and settled in next to Taffy and read them all.
We have a tendency to keep adding things to our plate until we are completely stressed out and prone to making errors. But time is a zero-sum game. Adding something to your schedule requires you to remove something else.
Where are you out of balance? What habits have you fallen into that are preventing you from truly focusing on what’s important? What is it that you really have to do, and what are you doing just because you’ve always done it, or because other people have gotten used to expecting you to do it?
Take a deep breath, examine your activities, and see what you can cut out of your schedule.
And if all else fails, you can always get a dog.