Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Law of Conservation of Sanity

The Law of Conservation of Sanity clearly states two activities cannot occupy the same person at the same time.  If in doubt, try it.  I am one of the best multi-taskers on the planet and it is not possible to do two things at the same time while maintaining your sanity. You can do many things at about the same time, but not at the same time.

If you don't remember me pointing this out in the past, I will remind you I am an engineer and thus I love the undeniable rules of physics.  Things like "water runs downhill" and work = (force x distance) are balm to my soul.

I remember when I learned about the law of conservation of mass, which states no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.  Once again, if you doubt me, try it.  Do I even have to explain the disaster when your toddler tries to "help" while you are in the kitchen at the end of a marathon baking event?  Toddler comes in, mommy goes out.  Big brother forces his way in, toddler leaves crying.  Mommy comes in, demands big brother leaves... Do you see how that works? No two objects can occupy that kitchen space at the same time.

(For the record, I am aware there were other reason for the law of conservation of mass, most of them quite profound, but it appears to apply to my family as well, so I go with it.) 

So now we are back to the Law of Conservation of Sanity.  All good laws have been tested by many scientists over the ages and have been proven to have no exception.  Using the scientific method I have determined the Law of Conservation of Sanity to be true, un-yielding and un-bendable.  It is absolutely not possible to maintain sanity while doing two things at the same time.

Now it is time to explain the law does not state it is impossible to do two things at the same time, only that one cannot maintain their sanity if they try.  I have years of scientific notes to prove this law, but I will relate only two.

Case Study #1: After attempting to build a set for a stage production, coordinate a school wide organization, facilitate educational goals for my children, be kind to the people I met on the street, run a business and complete a genealogy project, I not only failed miserably, I lost my mind, rambled uncontrollably and nearly slept until new years.

Case Study #2: After having a newborn, I attempted to sleep, shower, clean my house and care for and hold a fussy baby 24 hours a day.  (Do I even need to detail how badly that went?)

While each task was achievable on its own, none of them were achievable together.  Eventually priorities were established, tasks were divided and things were accomplished in order, one at a time.

You might assume I follow this law to maintain my sanity, but alas I do not.  I regularly attempt multiple things at the same time and my husband and close friends can tell you the results.  It isn't pretty, I promise.

I heard in a report once that multi-tasking reduces brain function to a level equal to a person smoking marijuana.  The report also said men are much less likely to multi-task than women.  From this report, (which I couldn't cite if I wanted too) I gather the following: When I try to do too much at one time I am reduced to the capacity of a person on drugs without any of the fun side effects.  (Big disclaimer here...I do not now, nor have I ever endorsed drug use. I am merely pointing out the obvious.)  Even more important is that my husband has no idea why I multi-task or why I appear to be in a stupor when I do.  He questions my sanity, and do you blame him?

The New Year is just around the corner and we have the opprotunity to make many pledges to ourselves.  I suggest this year you needlepoint the Law of Conservation of Sanity on a pillow for all to see. Embrace it and use it.  I will attempt to remember this somewhat obvious Law in my life as well.

Let's see if it works...I still have that genealogy project to finish.

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