How are your time management skills? Or, like me, do you think that the whole thing is a non-starter because you don't have much free time to manage?
It's the modern American paradox. We value our time above all else, even money. And why not? With time, you can make more money. But at the end of your days, money can't buy you more time.
We now have all these portable electronic devices that are supposed to help us save or better manage our time, and yet many of us still complain about not having enough time to do what we really want -- like spend more time with our families. What's worse, and rarely talked about, is that we're trying to squeeze too many activities, hobbies and tasks into the time we have. From homemakers to hedge-fund managers, we're spreading ourselves too thin, and so we're doing too many things halfway.
Several years ago, my wife gave me what turned out to be very valuable advice. She had come home one day to find me multitasking. Actually, it was more like juggling. I was trying to care for my infant daughter while dashing back and forth to my home office to try to finish a column. She put a stop to that. Pick one, she demanded.
"When you're going to be with the baby, be with the baby," she said. "And when you're working, work. Don't try to do both, because both will suffer."
Wise words. The kind that might have been useful to one of America's best known media critics.
Howard Kurtz is formerly of The Washington Post and, after a recent parting of ways, now formerly of The Daily Beast. He also hosts "Reliable Sources" on CNN, a Sunday media criticism show that the network says is under review.
Kurtz's career seems to be suffering because he made a serious error in a story about pro basketball player Jason Collins, who recently announced that he is gay.
During an extraordinary segment of "Reliable Sources" where CNN invited two other media critics -- Dylan Byers, media reporter for Politico, and David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR News -- to grill the host, here's how Kurtz explained what went wrong:
"I read the 'Sports Illustrated' article by Jason Collins, the first pro male team athlete to come out publicly as gay. I read it too fast and carelessly missed that Jason Collins said he was engaged previously to a woman, and then wrote and commented that he was wrong to keep that from readers when, in fact, I was the one who was wrong."
At first glance, this is a story about a media critic who is now under the same microscope that -- for more than two decades -- he has put many of his colleagues. It's about making mistakes, which we all do. And being willing to correct them publicly, which many of us are not always eager to do.
But for me, this story is about something bigger, something that goes far beyond the Beltway and should resonate with millions of Americans.
That's because, when Folkenflik asked about what had been Kurtz's "multiple roles" -- media critic and Washington bureau chief of The Daily Beast, author, CNN host, contributor to a new media website, etc. -- and whether the journalist had been "distracted," Kurtz said this:
"I'll leave it to others to judge whether I have taken on too much. I have always done both print and TV. I shouldn't say always, but for a long time. My kids tell me I work too hard. It's hardly unusual in the multimedia world for people to take on multiple responsibilities."
Kurtz is right. It is a multimedia world, and it is customary for those of us who participate in it to juggle several jobs at once. I myself worry about doing too much. For me, it is a process of continual self-evaluation.
But this is also a cautionary tale, and not just for journalists. All Americans should take note. We can't possibly do everything. So we should focus on doing just a few of what we consider the most important things, and doing them well. Otherwise, we may wind up accomplishing nothing at all.
Contact Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.