Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Myth of Multi-tasking

March 20, 2010

My last post here was at Christmas time. Today is the first day of Spring. Nearly three months have come and gone since I last sat down to write here.

A blog is simply one form of self-expression. I make my living as a writer of advertising and radio features -- a seller of ideas -- and even though writing well is a painstaking and time-consuming enterprise, I enjoy it immensely. This humble blog furnishes an opportunity to pursue writing for my own edification.

So why has it taken me three months to come back here? Surely, I could have carved out some time between commitments and projects, if only to scribble a few lines.

The fact is, I've lost a great deal of time in the pursuit of an illusory productivity. I've become a victim of the myth of multi-tasking.

For instance, I carry two cell phones -- one provided by the radio station and my own personal/business phone -- a tangible manifestation of the dilemma I face, having more professional interests than the time to pursue them, more irons in the fire than I can effectively handle, too many conflicting deadlines and obligations.

Yes, I have only myself to blame. I've always found it easier to say "Yes" to people, when I should be saying "No, I can't. Sorry." Whether it boils down to a lack of self-discipline or a fertile imagination, take your pick. Both apply.

I'm reminded of an article I read a couple years ago, written by a Hayden, Idaho pastor whose columns appear in the Spokane newspaper. He wrote, in part:

Christian friend, are you struggling with a lifestyle of busyness? Don’t despair. Christ points us to many off-ramps; we’ve just got to stop speeding past them.

In Luke’s Gospel, we’re given an account of Jesus having a meal at the home of two sisters. One sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet and listened. The other sister, Martha, worked herself frantic trying to get the meal ready for a crowd of people.

Given our own lifestyles, many of us empathize with Martha when she complains: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” (Luke 11:40 – NKJV)

But consider Jesus’ reply: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42-43 – NLT)

I really believe we find a few cures for a lifestyle of busyness in Mary’s example:

First, we can choose to say no. Most of the decisions we make that lead to busyness don’t involve a choice between right and wrong. They’re usually choices between good things. Helping Martha would have been a good thing to do, but better still was sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Let’s exercise the freedom to say “no” to good things; save “yes” for the best things.

For years, I've viewed multi-tasking as a way of making the most of a given quantity of time. Fortunately, I've been blessed with an amazing wife who sees things differently; to her, multi-tasking is just a nice way of saying "unfocused."

And she's absolutely right. It's time to refocus.

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