For the record, I used to be really good at multitasking. I started young, as all good control freaks do. In high school, I could be doing homework while listening to music and talking to a friend on the phone. By the time I got to med school, I would be walking down the hall while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and looking over my notes before rounds. And, in medical practice, I was often doing 2, 3, or more things at a time.
When I quit work because of my migraines, though, I didn’t really stop my multitasking ways. You see, I was still under the impression (delusion?) that if I worked hard enough, I could keep all the balls in the air. I thought I could certainly juggle educating the kids, keeping the house clean, doing laundry, and more along with having the migraines. The problem with juggling, though, is that you never have one ball in your hand for any length of time. Consequently, it’s easy to forget what that ball is, what it looks like, what it’s name is, etc. But, when you don’t juggle, you can hold each ball in your hand and enjoy it and learn about it’s characteristics.
Over the years, I’ve gotten rid of some of my multitasking mostly by learning that the world won’t end if I don’t get everything done – and I might be happier and more relaxed if I don’t get it all done. Now, I try to read without having any music on so I can concentrate on the words, the plot, the message. I still often listen to books or watch TV while I knit, but I try to spend some time each day just enjoying knitting. It’s a relaxing activity – when I don’t try to incorporate in other things to do.
I’ve even been known to just sit in a quiet house and do nothing for a while. That still takes a good bit of discipline, but it’s good for me. Jesus gave us the example of practicing solitude. I can pray during that time. Or I can meditate on Scripture. Or sometimes just let thoughts go through my head.
There are a few multitasking activities that I won’t give up (at least, anytime soon). I like listening to (and singing with) music when I clean the kitchen. When I’m knitting (particularly if it’s a repetitive stretch of knitting), I will still often listen to music or books.
I am only keeping one fiction and one non-fiction book around instead of always having 8-10 books going at a time. I am trying to eat without feeling the need to read something at the same time.
Mostly, I want to quit juggling. It’s a tiring and inefficient way to live. I want to spend time with my family just sitting and talking. I want to be with my kids. I want to be present in my own life, not a spectator. The way to do that is to pay attention, to do only one thing at a time. Unfortunately, this is a pretty counter-cultural way to live.
Jesus was counter-cultural, though. And not just so that people would think he was weird. (Sometimes, I think Christians adopt certain dress and mannerisms just to be “different”. Jesus had a reason for everything He did.) Jesus spent intimate, quality time with his 12 disciples. He spent time every day in solitude and prayer. He slept when He was tired (think about the miracle where the disciples had to wake Him so He could calm the storm!). His big multitasking activity was to heal people as He walked from town to town.
This is the life I want. I want to be intentional; to do one thing at a time; to have deep relationships. And, while I know there’s a selfish component here, the real reason I want to live this way is because I won’t be too busy to follow Jesus. I won’t have to pass by people in need because I have 14 other things on my to-do list. Being busy should not be a badge of honor – despite the fact that I acted like it was for many years.
What are your thoughts on multitasking? Is it always a bad thing or just sometimes? How can we live more intentionally obedient lives to Jesus? And on that note, I’m going to read a book for a few minutes and then go to bed!