“Rush-a-holism” & the Perils of Multitasking (DE Wave)

Text reads Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! in red letters

Several readers have asked me if it’s possible to be a “rush-a-holic,” i.e., to be addicted to rushing or being in a hurry. I have to admit that that’s a new one, but I believe that it’s not the rushing itself that holds the appeal. Some just love the thrill of a deadline and the sense of urgency that the “high” that a deadline can bring about. I have met people who procrastinate not so much because they want to put things off, as much as they need to create a crisis. They crave the sense of urgency brought about by the need to get something done in a hurry. Interestingly, I sometimes see this with retired people. Some have said things like, “I postpone doing things so I won’t run out of things to do.” Others who are bored describe the same feeling.

Out of context, you’ll see rush-a-holics complaining about being hurried, but the rushing actually serves a purpose, however subconscious. The compulsion to put off and then rush isn’t always because of boredom. Some people believe that they do better under pressure. This can very well feed the compulsion to put things off, since faster supposedly means better.

This feeling is not unlike the thrill of the chase, almost like a compulsive gambler experiences. Does this mean you actually do perform better under pressure? Probably not. It stands to reason that deliberate, rationally spaced-out goal-setting and implementation will beat last minute hurrying on its own terms. But emotionally, some still believe that they work better under pressure. So the behavioral pattern stands.

Some of my colleagues call this “hurry sickness.” And it can have an interesting origin. PsychologyNet.org states, “Many people with hurry sickness have an intense fear of rejection. Trying to please everyone by rushing to meet others’ needs contributes to this problem. For example, if you must make all appointments on time, you may have an excessive need to please others. While it is important to be on time for most appointments, not all require a do-or-die attitude. Rushing through traffic and risking life and limb to get to an appointment for which you might be a few minutes late can actually create more problems.”

I know people who never fully commit to social engagements. Their friends say, “Well if she makes it, she makes it; if she doesn’t, she doesn’t.” Is this rudeness? Probably not intentionally. Most often it’s simply a person who overcommits by saying “yes” to everything, out of an irrational fear of turning people down.

This leads to another common rationalization for hurry sickness, and it’s called multitasking. “I’m a multitasker” is the excuse some people give for constantly being in a hurry. In reality, it’s a combination of poor judgment or weak organizational skills, topped by a tendency to overcommit. (I’m bracing myself for the self-righteous emails!)

I like the definition that a friend of mine gives multitasking: “Doing a lot of things at the same time, and none of them well.” There’s a suburban myth that women’s brains are inherently suited for multitasking; something men cannot understand. Probably closer to the truth is that some women are more likely to say “yes” when they mean “no,” because they are more likely to worry about hurting others’ feelings by turning them down. As a result, they end up with more to do, which fuels the mythical rationalization for multitasking. Of course, both men and women can be guilty of this, and certainly not all women are. We can’t blame bad habits or poor choices on our gender! That’s the easy (and lazy) way out.

So how do we cure rush-a-holism? We examine our minds for errors in thinking or assumptions like the ones I just described. And then we practice living in the moment. Not FOR the moment, but IN the moment. There’s a difference. While effective and satisfied human beings are long-range thinkers, it isn’t wise or healthy to spend your life living 10 minutes, 10 hours or 10 days in the future. Be present in the here-and-now. That’s where life gets lived, one task at a time.

Be sure to “friend” Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael  Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1