So you’re the master of multitasking, huh? It impresses your boss and wows your friends and family. Like that 1980s Enjoli commercial, you can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. You can wipe runny noses, clean up messes, put out fires and even spark a few. Armed with a mobile device and a go-get-it attitude, you could rule the world (or at least the carpool lane). There’s just one slight hiccup. When you major in multitasking, you often minor in joy and fulfillment.
“You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” (Luke 10:41-42)
That’s what a calm, cool and collected Jesus tells Martha in the Book of Luke. Martha and her sister Mary are playing host to Jesus and his crew when he gently tells Martha to chill. She’s all amped and ready for a sibling fight. She’s slaving away in the kitchen, making a five-star meal for the Messiah while her sister is sitting at his feet, enjoying a fireside chat. He advises Martha to take a cue from her sister and relax. In other words, just because you can do something, it doesn’t always mean you should do it.
Ahhh, but when it comes to multitasking, can you really teach an old dog a new trick? A delay in the construction of my home afforded me the opportunity to live with a dear friend for a month. I showed up on her doorstep with two Yorkies in tow. They immediately took to her sunny personality, but one, in particular, took a special interest in her. A week or two into my stay, I’d walk through the door at the end of a long work day only to find my little dog nestled next to her on the sofa like an old man watching TV. It was remarkable because out of my two dogs, he was the most spirited, rambunctious and relentlessly busy sniffing, running or yipping. He never met a toy or a treat he didn’t prance around the house with for hours before abandoning it or consuming it. In that short month, she had trained him well. She only had to pick him up and look into that sweet face and declare, “You’re doing too much!”
That command for a five-pound dog is a great reminder for all of us. Research shows we’re terrible multitaskers. Our brain can only handle so much at once. It can shift focus from task to task—not handle ten things at the same time. Some say multitasking is actually a myth. The more we pile on our plates, the greater the risk for error. No judgment here. I’ve locked my keys in the car twice, mixed up two important dates, and missed an important meeting by phone all in the span of a week!
“You’re doing too much,” I can hear my friend say.
I can also hear Solomon, in his sobering wisdom in Ecclesiastes, compare all that chasing of time to the “chasing of the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
As someone who has built a career and a life on deadline, it’s hard to resist the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing multiple things at once. Showing off my juggling prowess is a bit of a badge of honor. It’s just in the process of all that getting and attaining, productivity suffers and so does something more. Life just isn’t fun. Remember what that felt like? Also, we can miss what’s most important: the moments, the precious moments of our own self-awareness and moments with the people who we’re blessed to have in our lives. Whatever it is, it can wait until you roll around on the floor with your kids or slowly slip a cup of tea. Really, it can.
Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. So eons ago, the equivalent of the stay-at-home mom or the busy career girl was already in existence. Your boss game ain’t nothing new. So dial it back. It’s OK. Doing less means living more.
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24)