Fighting Progress Bar Syndrome


Progress Bar Syndrome (PBS): the term I give to my wonderful husband when he happens to be so focused on fixing a problem (normally computer related) that he will want to watch it all the way to completion despite the final stages not requiring him to be there at all. It is very similar to watching paint dry or a kettle boil; it does not go any faster than it would without you and quite honestly is a massive waste of time.

This is not something that only Bear does, I see it everywhere. I also firmly do not believe that this is a “man thing” or that multitasking is the antithesis of it either. I think that multitasking is often just doing multiple things badly. So what’s the solution?

The problem is that we get ourselves stuck in states of mind. One might be “But I’m busy because this hasn’t finished…” but Progress Bar Syndrome, or truthfully just waiting, is not an activity, it is in fact the lack of activity. Another might be “But I feel productive when I’m getting lots done all at once…” but actually this multitasking is unlikely to save you time and makes you less focused and more prone to mistakes.

We need a middle ground and this is where efficiency is the aim of the game. It’s often in the little things and seems obvious: make your sandwiches for lunch whilst the kettle boils and bread toasts. By the time you’re done you’ll have breakfast waiting for you. Put the laundry on just before you have a bath and then dry off a little when you throw stuff in the dryer. Technically you’re getting things done simultaneously; you’re just not watching every second of each bit.

The above tasks are things that I feel come pretty naturally after a while if you are a stay-at-home parent; one-handed dinner prep, cleaning, and (as proved by this post) typing are all possible and mean that you actually get something done. This is not multitasking. Nursing or being the nap patch for a young child does not mean you have to be stuck to a sofa.

Of course there will be those frustrating people who just don’t want to. I once had to stop myself hitting a guy who confessed he would often do housework and multitask badly on purpose so he wouldn’t be asked to do it again. The manipulation and laziness in this made me crazy. Although there will be those who think this way, there are many others who just don’t seem able to plan simple things fast enough to get things done.

Fighting PBS is what is keeping me sane, and will ultimately help me cope with the daily to do list. If I plan to study then reading to Cub will consist of theology papers to teach her language skills and during nursing. If I want to complete art projects it will likely be at nap times or when Cub is happy to watch Mama be creative. I will have to choose my time wisely. Making lunch will become part of making dinner the night before. Walking around bouncing Cub to sleep can be joined onto doing laundry, hoovering dog hairs off the carpet, and actually could go as far as taking the dog for a walk or just getting some exercise. None of this is easy but it does make life easier in the long run. It just requires a bit of a reshuffle to get things done efficiently.

All of this does mean making some sacrifices though. It is far too easy to slump onto the sofa and while away a day nursing and rocking and talking to your child when you’re all warm and cosy and there’s a film on TV. However, for me at least, the stress catches up with you and the list increases until it is overwhelming and then I cry. So my aim is starting Monday to give up TV for a week.

I’m only trying a week because whilst living in a house with three generations it could be massively anti-social and I might still end up crying. By piling the books high, discovering my music collection, working on my artwork, and writing to friends I hope to come out the week feeling generally better. TV has become my PBS because really I’m not doing anything and wasting my time. This was great in the early stages of recovery but now I need to fight back and get my life back on track.

Have you suffered from PBS? Have you felt as if time slips away and yet so little has been done? Maybe you just need to reshuffle your day a little. Or maybe you have suggestions. Let me know in the comments.

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