Breaking the Habit of Multitasking

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You are Chief Coordinator of your household.

You hold a job, cook meals, organize sports and extra-curricular activities, help with homework, schedule check-ups, drive the taxi, mow the grass, do the laundry and read stories at night. All of this while trying to keep an active social life and find time to be active in the community.

Multitasking is your friend; your dearest and closest companion, who without – you’d crash and burn.

“Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.” 2 Corinth 6:1 MSG

The apostle Paul is begging the Christ followers he’s writing to (and us, today) not waste a single bit of life. This sounds like great validation for multitasking. The more I do, the less I squander.  We forget, however, Paul wasn’t on a smart phone, wasn’t “connected” to 2k friends all the time, and definitely was not ignoring the people he met. He sat, broke bread, and deeply invested in small groups of followers. His ministry was lavishly intimate. His purpose exceedingly intentional.

Some of us cannot say the same about our lives. As we discussed in The New Silent Killer of Relationships: Multitasking, we cannot ignore the side effects when we do so much at once. Research proves we make more mistakes, are 40% less productive, and cause permanent damage to our minds – not to mention our suffering (and squandered) relationships.

The sobering truth we must all come to accept is we are battling a legitimate addiction. Every time an email is opened, a tweet posted, text message received a burst of hormones reaches the pleasure center of your brain. Similar to drugs, alcohol, sex or any other addictive vice.

In a recent and humbling experiment, mice were given a bar to push and receive the same shot of hormones we get from checking email.  The mice became so addicted to the pleasure that they stopped eating and sleeping and only desired to push the bar for more pleasure. This is addiction. Are we any different?

Or have we become this addicted already?

Have you stayed up past the time you planned to go to bed checking your Instagram or twitter feed – pushing the bar for more pleasure? Do you bury your face in Facebook during your lunch hour instead of eating?

Be encouraged. There are many ways to avoid these side effects and live the marvelous life God has given us.

There are two tools, or lifestyle changes, which will focus on to identify our weaknesses and transform our habits. These aren’t new or revolutionary but simply forgotten in the glowing light of smart phones and social media.

Time management and Time intentionality: our 2 new best friends.

Time Management

We live in a society that worships at the alter of busy. If you are busy, surely you must be important.

Busyness is rooted in the overload of information and opportunity we have. Everything is at our fingertips and within our grasp. It’s all so good; we want to read it all, accomplish it all, decorate it all, etc.  Often, we are so overloaded with information we become paralyzed and unable to make the simplest of decisions. In his book #hooked, Gregory Jantz explains how overloaded multitaskers react in 1 of 2 ways: exit the situation or overreact to the situation.

When you feel busy and overloaded do you exit a relationship struggle instead of working it out? How about overreacting on someone you love? Give up on a child?

The solution for being overloaded is offloading. We can offload the unimportant tasks stealing our time and attention or the more dangerous alternative is to offload the wrong things such as a marriage, children and friendships.

We must become keenly aware of how we are spending our time in order to offload the right things. What is of greatest importance and deserving of the biggest portion on our plate? What adds little value and can be removed? Where can we slow down? What time spent builds us up? What leaves us broken?

Becoming mindful of how we spend (or squander) our time is the first step in time management.

Any time we feel OVERwhelmed, OVERcommitted, OVERextended, OVERreactive, OVERrun, or OVERbooked is because we are doing OVER what we are capable of. Not to mention, over what God intends for us. We are not meant to OVERflow negativity from a busy and overwhelmed life. Our OVERflow must be of love, peace, and joy. We can offload everything else.

The choice must be made and the cost must be counted. Who or what will get our time?

Most busy parents believe they are fantastic time managers and these feelings of OVER(everything) is normal and temporary.  And for a while this may be true. We may accomplish 30 things in one day – 5 of them at one time, but at what cost? Who or what is getting our negative overflow? What is the cost in our most important relationships? This  could possibly be the most important questions parents today face.

Instead of trying to accomplish those 5 tasks simultaneously, focus on accomplishing one task well. For example, Moms: you are helping your oldest with math homework while your youngest tells you a funny story that cannot wait. You also have dinner cooking and your best friend texts you because her world is falling apart and she needs your advice. Dads: you just got home from work and the grass needs to be mowed before it rains. Your wife is losing her mind with kids having meltdowns, and your work just called reminding you to get a report sent ASAP.What is your priority? Which task will win your focus?

Here’s our brave steps:
  1. Acknowledge
    Acknowledging is admitting you cannot do it all.  Every moment you are tempted to do OVER your ability requires you to embrace this truth.
  2. Prioritize
    Prioritizing is knowing in advance, for example, kids come before your friend’s texts or your wife comes before mowing grass This makes your decisions easier and less overwhelming. Take time to be honest with yourself and family. Set a ranking list of priorities.
  3. Offload
    Offload everything not in your top 5 priorities. Even if you offload some things temporarily, you must maintain a small set of priorities and quiet everything else hustling for your attention.
  4. Boundaries
    Protect your top 5. Without boundaries in place to know when you are “full,” you can easily overflow with busyness.

The remedy to our sickness is less. When we spread ourselves thin to multitask we lose thankfulness in our hearts. We are robbed of joy and depleted of our strength. Ironically, to fill this gaping hole we often add more things to accomplish. We need to start retraining our minds to focus on what is important.

Time Intentionality

Time intentionality is distinguishing the difference between ACTIVELY USING time and PASSIVELY CONSUMING time.

Do you get sucked into social media rabbit hole? A click here, led to a link there, which led to a news article, which led to…and you finally reemerged to the land of the living and find time has completely got away from you? A quick intended 5 minutes turned into 35 minutes. This is called the ‘zone out’.

MEDIA zone out is the greatest passive consumer of our time.

If we want to be intentional with our time, we must grapple with this media beast.

Unmanaged time will never be intentional. Likewise, an unmanaged budget will never be able to give abundantly, an unmanaged business will never be profitable, an unmanaged child will fail to grow in wisdom, and an unmanaged schedule will rarely have time for service and spontaneity.

If you want to be intentional with your time, it starts with time management: acknowledge you can’t do everything, prioritize your life, offload the unnecessary, and set boundaries to protect your priorities  You can do all these perfectly, but without intentionality, the media beast will passively devour your time.

The idea of being connected 24/7 has blurred the lines of healthy boundaries.

Reclaim them!  Chaos loves to dance in the blurred lines. We can prioritize spiritual solitude when not connected 24/7. Without spiritual solitude, defined as the calmness of not feeling overwhelmed, we wouldn’t be able to continue acknowledging, prioritizing, offloading, and boundary setting.

If our lack of personal boundaries with media causes chaos in our lives, how can we begin to gain order and act intentionally to reestablish calmness and peace?

Here’s our brave steps:
  • Set your phone to silent and put it away when not needed. Contrary to popular thought, we don’t need it to survive, as proven by the mere fact we are alive today.
  • Turn off alarms and notices on your computer, devices, phones, etc. which will distract you with every new *ding* 
  • IF disorder distracts you from staying focused, set specified time aside to clean/straighten several times daily .
  • Keep you email closed. Only check it at set times during the day.
  • Set an allotted time for television daily and do not keep the television as ‘background noise’. Have family members keep you accountable.
  • Create a family planner to visually remind you that your family’s life is busy, and you must have the freedom to say no to some things.
  • Graciously allow time (perhaps a set amount of time) to connect and be a part of a social media without feeling guilty.
  • Remember there is no amount of success and accolades that outdoes a healthy home life.

“Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” 2 Corinth 6:12-13 

We do not live life expansively by attempting to do more. This inevitably leads to multitasking which spreads us thin over purposeful living. The synonyms for expansively are lavishly, generously, and enthusiastically.

Multitasking does the opposite of how Paul urges us to live.

We can all bravely get out a fork and take a bite of humble pie. We can admit we have been handling our precious time frivolously, squandering true presence. I’ll chew my piece right next to you. We’ll both wash it down with a healthy swig of grace.

Time is beautiful gift given to us. It’s our charge to steward time intentionally, responsibly and bravely.

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Chelsea Hezel

Chelsea Hezel

Chelsea is a classical Christian homeschool mom of three beautiful children. She married her high school sweetheart, and is still head over heels in love with him. She enjoys getting tattoos, listening to Guns n' Roses, reading classics, and most importantly she loves Jesus. Her goal is to always point you back to Jesus. He keeps her standing on her feet, standing, fresh and celebrating (Jude 1:24-25 MSG).

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