Friday, August 1, 2008
I just read a wonderful article in Today's Christian Woman about "Unitasking". This is the opposite of the rage today: multitasking. It particularly hit home because for the past couple of days I have been working out of my house, primarily on a single project - web site upgrades to my company's site. I've been writing, gathering links to use, going through pictures to use, marshalling the guys at the ad agency, all that stuff, with very few interruptions, and I am reminded of how much I like being able to focus on one project for a period of time. It breeds a continuity that makes for better work, no matter what the project, I think.
I think sometimes too we lose something in our personal lives by multitasking all the time. I went to a musical program Tuesday night with my daughter. She and her friends most of whom were at the show as well, were texting all through the performance. For the most part my daughter ignored the text messages and really, really took in the show. But what about all those kids texting throughout? What did they miss? Some pretty amazing stuff, because that's what happens when your attention is divided. So now when we compute, watch TV and carry on a conversation, we are doing a lot of things, but none of them as well. We miss stuff on TV, or miss stuff in the conversation, or.... well you get the idea.
I think a big reason we don't pray well into today's world, or study enough to have a satisfying and effective spiritual life is that we are so caught in the false promise of multitasking that we cannot focus and let the spirit work on us and in us. And so we never settle down and just let the word and spirit penetrate us and soak in as it should.
Don't get me wrong. There is a place for multitasking in life. At times, it's great. On an average day I bounce from thing to thing to thing in work and it's exhilarating to do sometimes, and stuff DOES get done. But to live a life where we only multitask, and never stop to unitask, I think leaves us poorer on lots of fronts, particularly on the relational and spiritual. And aren't they the most important.
I used to be the worst at this, I have to tell you. I was always doing 2-3 things at once. But I've learned the falseness of it, and the damage it can do to actually relating to people and to God - the real stuff of life. So now I multi task far less, and actually work at doing it less often, and having more time to focus on the task, person or thought at hand.
An odd thing I am learning as I do this. Unitasking is not really less efficient. It's just that work gets done differently. There's less appearance of action and progress, but look over a period of a month or more, and the same amount of work gets done (and often better) with I multi task less. THAT has been a surprise to me, but I can see it.
Not preaching here, but it's something to think about, and the article is what got me thinking.
PS - The photo is of my son, in a tearoom in Tintagle, England. It was a day where we focused on the moment, whatever it was, - no cell phones, no distractions, and was one of the most simple, and delightful of days, ever, one we still talk about often, even though it was over a year ago.