Thursday, January 31, 2013

One Thing at a Time

I read an article a while back that suggested when we multitask, we diminish our brain power to the same extent as if we'd had one too many beers. (For me, that would be one more than one.) If that's true, it's a little sobering (no pun intended) to think about the implications; most of us are stumbling around in a drunken stupor and don't know it. When are we not multitasking?

My New Year's Declaration to become a single-tasker (see previous post) has grown out of a need for balance and increased brain power. Perhaps like you, I have a diverse portfolio of work, even in a given day. I'm a congregational consultant, a wife, a writer, a spiritual director, an agent for a non-profit, a mother and grandmother, a cook, a friend, a facilitator and teacher and director of an urban retreat center. And sometimes, in a given day, I am all of them!

The only way I can keep my sanity and give my best and my all to each is to focus on "one thing at a time." In my previous post, I referred to Jesus' words to Martha:  "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 10:41, 42).

"There is only one thing worth being concerned about" at a time.

To do that, here's where the battle is won or lost: It's hard work to put on blinders when I'm writing a presentation on my computer and see an email float into my inbox about something else that needs my attention. Or to ignore a phone call or text while I finish what I'm doing. Or to mentally brush aside a worrisome thought while I spend time praying and being with God. It's hard work--really hard work to single-task.And it's in those brief, innocuous moments where I choose to stay on task or multitask that I either find or lose my way.

This is my growing edge these days--to prioritize my "first thing" and choose to keep it as my "one thing" to focus on until it's finished or where it needs to be until I pick it up again. Most days I try and fail; but when I'm tenacious about single-tasking, I'm much more productive and fruitful than when I go back and forth from one thing to another. I also don't feel as overwhelmed and out of balance or waste as much time.

So, it's a new day and I'm ready to practice the wisdom of Jesus and be concerned about one thing at a time! And I'm hungrier than ever for the peace that comes from it. How about you?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Intentions for 2013: Declarations for Becoming a Single-tasker

I like to organize my thoughts through a mind map. So, a few days before the new year began, I placed a bubble in the middle of my journal page and wrote, "My New Year's Intentions for 2013." And then I began to add bubbles around it and clusters of thoughts related to those bubbles. 
As I scanned my memory and wrote down ideas of what might become an intention to live into this coming year, I also saw a theme arise. Many of my bubbles had to do with balance--that elusive ideal I've often striven for in the past. Some bubbles included things like more consistent Sabbath keeping, improved self-care and planning margin--all things that have to do with balancing work with rest and play.  
But the obvious next question was "How?" How do I create balance or manage all the disparate parts of my life in a way that I helps me have some margin. As I considered the question, something came to mind that might be counter-intuitive to what you might expect to be an answer. It was the thought that I need to become a single-tasker. I need to learn how to focus on one thing at a time. It's trying to do too many things at once that creates the feeling of being overwhelmed and lacking balance.
Jesus had some things to say about single-tasking in the story about Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Do you know the story? Jesus was in their home one day along with a number of his disciples. He was teaching them when Martha, busy in the kitchen, interrupted him with a clearly annoyed tone in her voice. She asked him to tell her sister, Mary, to get up from her place sitting at his feet and come help get lunch on the table. Jesus responded with some pointed words. “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 10:41, 42).
I’ve heard a lot of interpretations of this story, as you might have, but one application worth considering is Jesus’ suggestion that “there is only one thing worth being concerned about” at a time and if you discover that, it won’t be taken away from you. Mary was embodying the posture of a person who was aware of what was most important in that moment and she stay focused on it. She was a single-tasker. Martha, on the other hand, was a multi-tasker; she was worried about many things--a habit that creates the feeling that life is out-of-balance and overwhelming.
So, over the next few weeks, I want to think more deeply about what it means to be a single-tasker--to take Jesus' advice and be concerned about one thing at a time. I hope it will lead to a little more balance and peace of mind. Join me in this New Year 2013 as I write about "Declarations of a Single-tasker."