The Multitask Trap

The other day  I stood in the kitchen surrounded by fruits and veggies that needed slicing and chopping for an event.  The kitchen crew calmly and slowly washed while they joked and talked.  See that chicken?  That was me.  I stood, poised for the flurry of activity and the chicken- with -your- head- cut- off -run.  I tensed.  Waited.  It never came.  We spent a leisurely afternoon steadily working and talking.  We finished without a flurry of feathers.
“Oh,” I exclaimed in my moment of epiphany, ” I am so used to catering and being pressed for time.  People aren’t coming until tomorrow.”  The rest of the kitchen crew looked puzzled.  My comment didn’t translate.  This was their way of doing things.
My experience catering had made me a great multitasker.  Also, being the mother of seven trained me to handle multiple issues and jobs at once.  This needs done- now, so does this, so many temporal things that needed accomplished immediately.  Multitasking seemed like a great skill to have. More recently, I have been thinking, maybe, just maybe it is not so great.

 multitask-(of one person) to perform two or more tasks simultaneously.

Maybe it robs more than it gives.  I mean when I am reading aloud to my kids and my mind is multitasking, thinking of checking email so I don’t miss any important notices or what’s for dinner or when am I going to get to the dust bunnies on the bookshelves.  I lost the moment.  I stole it from myself.  Or what about those times when I am cleaning the kitchen and somebody wants to talk.  I clean and talk?  And run up and check the washer, and say, “Just a minute,”  four hundred times.  I can’t leave the house for swim practice with a sink full of dirty dishes or clothes in the washer, so I multitask.  Then I answer the phone and get a crick in my neck while I do other things.
I know it is difficult to manage a home full of small children without a bit of mulittasking.  Thankfully, most of us have humble, store-bought servants to help us.  We have dishwashers that wash our dishes while we do something else.  We have washers and dryers that wash and dry for us (and solar dryers out in the back yard).  We have vacuums that suck up bugs, dust bunnies and Legos.  We have farmers’ markets and grocery stores. We should have much more free time than our ancestors.  Unfortunately, we have created a society where, “I am so busy” is the norm  I sometimes let my servants boss me, carrying phone and Ipod around answering it the second it vibrates. We run from activity to activity like a chicken with its head cut off and then we die.
What to do?  What to do?  

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the place of the dead), where you are going.  Ecclesiastes 9:10

Whatever your hand finds to do….. all your might.  How do I do something with all of my might?  Can I focus on ten things and still do one thing with all of my might?  I think not.  I can’t.  When I focus on scrubbing a pan while talking to my teen about a serious issue, what am I giving all my might to?  Neither.  When I’m thinking about something else while I read to my kids, what am I losing?  The memory.  The time.  The focus.  The attention.  It is lost to getting things accomplished. When we are stressed and overworked, we create a hellish environment.  There is no wisdom  and knowledge there.

I have been mulling this over and over, chewing on this.  As soon as I hear the word, I am tested.  The truth can stand the test.  Do I have the wisdom to act on the word?   

This morning, while reading the Bible with my kids, a thought slammed right in the middle of Acts 5, I may have an appointment today! I picked up my phone mid chapter to check.  I lost my place and my line of thought.  I put my phone down and thought:  I will check that on our first break.  I put my mind into the moment at hand and had a great Bible study and discussion. I can remember it almost word for word even if the kids can’t!  I monotasked.

Monotask.  That is my new mantra.  Grandma did know best.  She knows the secret of monotasking.  Focus on what is at hand whether it is shelling peas, weeding, reading, conversing, making a pie or having quiet time.  

2 thoughts on “The Multitask Trap

  1. I agree with Maria–good word!

    This is undoubtedly why so many of us lament the fact that our brains won't work to remember and contain information. We are on overload.

    I often feel better when I steamroll through a day cleaning and getting “chores” done, because there is less mental effort required and more immediately visible results. But the time it takes to slow down and focus — to look my kids in the eyes when they are talking, instead of doing the “Uh, huh…just a minute” while I write or check email — that time is what is valuable throughout eternity. Human connections matter so much more than all the other stuff surrounding us.

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