Last month, I made a “fatal” error by accidentally putting my Kindle reader through the washing machine. I was trying to do several things at one time: picking up things to bring downstairs, gathering laundry and talking on the phone. I was disappointed in myself, sad at the loss of my beloved Kindle, and embarrassed by what I had done. I used to pride myself on being able to juggle several things at one time, like cooking dinner while talking on the phone and watching my young children. For most moms, multitasking is a necessary part of life. It’s been likened to spinning plates or trading back and forth between many hats. But I have learned over the years that I really can’t do several things at the same time and do each thing well also. The more things I try to do at one time, the more that quality, efficiency, and attention to detail suffer .
Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored. The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. For millions of people, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life. While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress. And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. “The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists. She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess. Attached to Technology and Paying the Price, Matt Richtel
I would like to say I’ve learned my lesson, but that’s not completely true. I know I will still have to do more than one thing at a time on occasion as a necessity, but when I have the option, I want to intentionally devote myself to the most important task at hand. So, when one of my family members is talking to me, I will try to give them my full attention instead of looking at my phone or my computer at the same time. When I am driving, I will try not to talk on the phone unless I absolutely have to. I know that my decades’ habit of multi-tasking is going to take a long time to break, but I want to try.
I have found that being completely present in the moment helps me to enjoy and savor all that God has for me in that moment. It fosters peace instead of anxiety; focus instead of fractured activity; patience instead of rushed completion of tasks; kindness instead of frustration; and joy instead of irritability. Lord, help me be completely present in each moment – I know I won’t be able to do this on my own.