Multitasking: Bringing It All Together
At the risk of sounding sentimental, I cautiously venture to say that I'm going to miss our series on multitasking. In fact, some of you may have noticed that while this was originally booked as a four-part series, you are now reading the fifth installment.
The purpose of this post is to bring to your attention three points that encapsulate what I believe is an appropriate response to all that we have learned over the past several weeks.
Each of the last three installments have included examples from my own life of practical application. Today, I hope to define more clearly an appropriate mindset with which to approach the issue of multitasking. Here are three principles we need to remember:
1.) Christians Can't Multitask
Of course I don't mean that Christians should never multitask. Multitasking can often be useful and is truly a unique ability that God has given to man. But what I do mean is that Christians don't have the option to do anything besides the one thing we have been called to do. Yes, we may do many different activities, but everything we do -- what we watch, listen to, think about, etc. -- falls under one all-encompassing activity: Representing Jesus Christ.
This means that the standard is not "Am I multitasking or not multitasking?" but rather, "How well am I representing Christ in His commitment to glorifying God?"
Christ lived His life with one purpose: to glorify His Father. And in 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul issues us the same challenge when he says, "...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). That means that whether we're multitasking or not multitasking, the purpose of everything we do is to bring God glory.
The purpose of this series was to give all of us a framework with which to evaluate this prevalent aspect of modern culture in light of the question: "Does it glorify God?" By recognizing the pitfalls of multitasking we are more prepared to answer that question.
The truth is that multitasking almost always hampers productivity, stifles thought, and harms relationships. For these reasons we can answer that, "no," multitasking hardly ever helps us glorify God.
However, the danger is that the lazy part of us wants jump on that to say, "No multitasking, ever." It's much easier to make a legalistic declaration than to continue asking the right questions.
But many, including myself, would be quick to point out that certain forms of multitasking have the potential in some situations to improve efficiency, raise levels of thought, and even increase interaction. Because of that we must take the harder road of not rejecting multitasking entirely, but of carefully evaluating each situation on its own merits.
2.) Consider What You're Not Doing
"The problem [with the electronic movement]," says Edward Hallowell, author of the book CrazyBusy, "is what you are not doing if [it] grows too large. You are not having family dinner, you are not having conversations . . . you are not going on a family ski trip or taking time just to veg. It's not so much that the video game is going to rot your brain, it's what you are not doing that's going to rot your life."
Whether it is focusing on our work, thinking hard thoughts, or loving others with our attention, it's what we're not doing that suffers most from our generation's obsession with media and multitasking. And the reason that we often fail to glorify God is not because what we're doing is necessarily sinful (it may be completely harmless), but because we're not doing something else that we could/should be doing.
Because of that our first consideration should not be, "Am I giving all of my IM conversations adequate attention?" but rather, "Is there something better I could be doing with my time?"
While all the perfect people who are reading this might only need to keep all of the important things they do from fragmenting their focus, the rest of us will probably find that many of the activities that hamper our productivity, stifle our thought life, and hurt our relationships are purely extraneous. When that comes to our attention we must have the maturity and humility to limit or eliminate those distractions.
3.) Take Technology Back
A common theme throughout our series on multitasking -- specifically, media multitasking -- is that our work, our thoughts, and our relationships are being degraded, not by technology itself, but by our unbalanced use of it.
Technology is not our problem. Our problems are a lack of self-control and a lack of vision. We are severely overusing the distractions of media and technology, yet woefully underusing the countless opportunities they provide.
Though nearly all of us have abused one of technology's latest offerings -- namely, online video -- few of us have even begun to explore our new ability to produce and distribute quality video and/or audio presentations on the web, using nothing more than a computer's built-in camera and microphone and a high-speed Internet connection.
Because the ability to mindlessly consume and aggressively produce exist within the same object -- a computer -- we shouldn't say that technology is bad and then live without it. Every gadget has the potential to be used as a tool or wasted as a toy. Technology has and will cause the greatest crises of our generation. But it also has and will provide the greatest opportunities that any generation has ever faced for communicating truth to the entire world.
If there ever was an area where Christian young people should lead, technology is it. As rebelutionaries we have an exciting task -- to show the world what new technology can really do when fused with character, competence, and truth. But it's also up to us to show the rest of our generation what it can't do, and that there's life beyond the screen.
We won't be able to do that if we're just as distracted as everyone else. For that reason we must stand with the Apostle Paul -- following him as he followed Christ -- and throw off the weight and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with endurance the race marked out for us.
It won't be easy, but it will be good.
Read: Intro / Productivity / Thought Life / Relationships / Closing