Productivity, Volunteering

Context shifting

Today is Day 1 of the big swim meet I’m coordinating (well, it starts tonight at 5:30). Friday night is the “distance events session”. It’s only a couple hours long and not TOO many kids, so should be pretty low key today. (The big kahuna really starts tomorrow.) Asher is swimming the 400 IM for the first time ever tonight (= 100 yards/ 4 lengths of each stroke (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle). Eek! It’s a beast of an event.)

I’m feeling….okay, things are ready….but there is some major underlying stress beneath the surface.

I was having a little “moment” last night, just feeling overwhelmed after a busy day of work + trying to simultaneously tie up lots of loose ends that keep popping up.

I had a realization, I think. There are two main things causing my stress.


This is totally a Cal Newport term. He loves to talk about “context shifting” and how detrimental it is to deep work and, just a deep life/ sense of peace. (e.g. Working with your phone next to you and quick checking a message, then back to work.) Well, I feel the last couple of weeks I have been swimming in a sea of context shifting and, Cal’s right. It’s making me crazy.

This volunteer job has SO many little moving parts, and I’m basically flying solo on so much of it. A lot of it feels very time sensitive, since it is- the meet is this weekend now!

(Example- I get an email that someone is pulling their kid out of the meet due to a family illness. Now I suddenly have two volunteer holes, in important roles. (In a perfect world, I would have a bigger “buffer” of workers, but I don’t.) I need to email one of our student volunteers, to see if he can work Saturday instead of Sunday, while maybe also emailing another mom to see if she can shift roles. Wait for response/ keep checking email because I need to get this dealt with ASAP! They finally write back with an answer, which might create another ripple effect or someone else I need to contact if that didn’t work…etc. etc. IF I get it sorted out, now I need to re-write and update the master schedule spreadsheet, which already went out to the students…so maybe I need to email them back now to make sure they have the updates….) I could go on and on. But I will spare you. 🙂

2- People DON’T GET IT

This is another big one. My role becomes the “dumping ground” of sorts. Things that aren’t really my job keep seeming to land on my lap. I try to be firm/ delegate/ divert…but it just doesn’t always seem to work? I don’t know.

People do not seem to actually understand what goes INTO making certain things happen. Even a seemingly “quick” task that someone might ask can snowball into a many step process, but I don’t think people realize this. In their mind, it’s just a quick thing. In reality, it might end up taking an hour or more when all is said and done (plus 12 context shift events).

I also feel like people do not always think through an entire situation. As in, “Oh, let’s do XYZ- this is a good idea.” Ok…well, how is that going to work? WHO is going to make that happen? Who is getting supplies for that idea? Who is printing the stuff we need then? Who is notifying the other people involved? Because I don’t want it to be me. But, since my brain is apparently the only one that “goes there”, it ends up being me.

OK! Gosh, I’m sorry. TOO NEGATIVE of a post. This is probably so annoying to read. There have been some great positives about this experience, too. I will list a few.

  • I’ve had some other swim parents go above and beyond to help out, filling in roles, working extra, etc. This is amazing.
  • I’ve had several parents reach out to me to thank me for all my work. This feels good.
  • We do have an overall great group on the Meet Committee- especially the concessions lead and the hospitality lead people. They’ve also worked hard and done so much too.
  • Technology has been my friend. My spreadsheets, lists, etc. have made everything easier.
  • I have found some ways to simplify the process, compared to previous years. So I’m happy to have “improved” it all, at least somewhat.
  • I guess I do have some skills to do this job, so maybe it’s better it’s me than someone who would let it all fall apart?
  • I’ve really gotten to know a lot of people on the team through this job! It’s nice to be part of the community.
  • It’s almost over! 🙂

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for raw onions. Ivan’s sister dropped off some amazing food last night (a Mexican dish that gets topped with spicy salsa and raw onions.) omg so delicious.

4 thoughts on “Context shifting”

  1. Raw onions kill my stomach. Sigh. But they are delicious.

    And definitely not a “negative” read – this is all realistic and I can absolutely relate to feeling out of control when there is much “context shifting” and becoming a dumping ground for other miscellaneous bits that don’t fit your brief. It all sounds like a lot. Kudos for doing it (and volunteers make the world go round) but it can be an utterly thankless job. I’m so excited that it will soon be behind you!!!


  2. I Also get annoyed when people act mindlessly and not considerate of others, but there are plenty of those in the world. even to my girls, I tell them when they find someone annoying just think it’s an opportunity to learn how to deal with those as there are plenty. but I’m glad you can still find some positive sides of the experience. 🙂


  3. I didn’t view this as a negative post – it’s just reality. My post today was not positive. Most of mine lately have not been positive, but we are in a really tough phase of life – which got worse this weekend as Will had a terrible allergic reaction to the amoxicillin he was on for his double ear infection.

    I am glad the meet is behind you and I am sure it ran like a well-oiled machine because of all of the work and context-shifting you did leading up to it. Requests from people who are clueless and don’t understand the work that has gone into planning or the work their request will require DRIVE ME CRAZY. I run into this at work at times and I have to grit my teeth so as not to lose my mind. Ha. And of course the people who make these requests are often the less-involved people? I know I sound judgy saying that, though!


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