by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.
We’re the multitasking generation, and we’re proud of it. We believe we’re sufficiently skilled to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, alternating from job to job in rapid speed. Although, on the surface, we seem more efficient, in our haste we may actually be taking more time to reach our goals and sacrificing quality as well.
No matter how much you try to convince yourself, you actually can’t do multiple things at the same time, and do them well. As Clint Eastwood says at the end of one of his “Dirty Harry” movies, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
Why do corporations continue to assume that the few can be asked to do the work of many? It seems the business world’s mantra these days is, “Do more with less.” But recent studies in multitasking indicate that trying to accomplish several duties at once may in fact reduce productivity, not increase it.
A segment on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” a few weeks ago caught my eye. It was discussing the steep price tag that comes with multitasking. A wife shared how she feels she never has her husband’s full attention because he’s constantly checking his BlackBerry, answering his cell phone and checking messages and emails. Imagine how your coworker, friend, spouse, lover or child would feel if every time they said something to you, you turned and gave them all of your attention — without thinking about what was next on your “to-do” list?
I’ve concluded that we really don’t multitask — we juggle. We actually juggle one task at a time, and whether we complete our various responsibilities quickly or slowly, we’re still only finishing one endeavor at a time. The problem is that not one undertaking has our attention for very long because we must focus immediately on the next item on our list. Certainly, the more we juggle, the greater the odds that we will drop some “ball.” Yet, juggling fewer duties or decreasing our priorities is not always the only answer.
Longing for a solution to multitasking madness, I turned to Jesus’ life and his three-year career. Here was a man who accomplished much in his brief ministry and whose eternal legacy still transforms the world generations after his work was completed. He taught and healed multitudes during those three years. How did he do so much in such a short period?
I decided to examine his typical workdays for insight. The book of Luke, Chapter 8 tells about many activities over what appears to be a very short amount of time — perhaps a day or a few days. During this time, Jesus traveled back and forth between two regions by boat, spoke to a large crowd, taught disciples in a private session, calmed a storm at sea, healed a madman, raised a little girl from death, and healed a woman with an issue of blood on the way to heal the little girl. All of this in only one chapter!
While it appeared that Jesus juggled many tasks, he really was about a single mission and purpose. His only work was being about his Father’s business. He never lost sight of this, regardless of the numerous details presenting themselves to him. This enabled him to focus on the needs of the moment and be responsive to each person he met. Jesus was always flexible, adjustable, listening, discerning. He was never rushed, pressured, stressed out or overwhelmed. He calmly went about accomplishing his work, fully attentive to each and every moment.
No, Jesus didn’t practice multitasking to accomplish his great mission — but, rather, the art of mindful living.
The fact of the matter is, we too have only “one” business — and like Jesus, it is to be about our Father’s business, wherever that takes us and in whatever we are doing. Perhaps the key to our success is to adopt “the mind of Christ,” as Paul says (Philippians 2:5). This means we, too, give our full attention to every moment and each person during those moments. We make mindfulness our approach to each day and every endeavor. I suspect such a mindful approach in our work and everyday life would result in greater achievement, fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness.