For Part Six, Click here
I probably should not even admit this, for fear of losing half my female readership, but I have a confession to make. I can’t multitask. At all. Maybe I have ADD. Maybe one of my older brothers dropped me on my head as a baby. Maybe I’m missing some vital female hormone or enzyme or something. But unlike the typical member of my beloved gender, I can only do one thing at a time. For real. Please don’t throw tomatoes at me!
The other day, I was on the phone with a friend for three hours. Three hours?, you ask. Trust me, it was an important conversation, so I couldn’t hang up. I tried my best to be productive during the phone call. Trying to find anything I could do around the house that would not distract from what my brain was trying to process verbally. What did I actually accomplish? I unloaded half the dishwasher. Not even the whole thing. In. Three. Hours. And several items were in the wrong place. I’m not kidding.
Here’s another secret for you…you can’t multitask either. You may think you can. And maybe you are one of the genetic mutants with super-human, ultra-amazing brain power (my husband claims to be one of these). But the truth is, most of us with normal human brains can’t do multiple things at once, stay focused, and produce the same quality of work as we would if we would simply do one thing at a time.
In fact, a 2001 study showed productivity to decrease up to 40% when we multitask. For companies, that translates to billions of dollars a year in lost revenue. For people like me, it means most of the time, my house is a mess and the measuring cups end up in the sippy cup cabinet.
I know, I know. Most of us are just way too busy NOT to multitask. Who has time to actually sit and talk on the phone without also sorting mail or folding laundry or unloading half a dishwasher? Who can complete one entire project at work without a text or e-mail coming through? Who can commute every day without trying to redeem some of that lost time by returning phone calls on the road?
We could, if we weren’t so busy.
Which brings me to my first of Four Reasons Busyness is So Bad: It makes us less productive and less effective.
Ready for another? Check out this list from Mayoclinic.com:
Effects of stress …
… On your body
High blood pressure
… On your thoughts and feelings
Lack of focus
… On your behavior
Drug or alcohol abuse
When I’m too busy, it stresses me out. I don’t eat well, because I don’t have time to make a list, go to the store, let alone cook. I don’t sleep well because my mind is constantly scrolling through my calendar and my endless to-do list. My stomach hurts. I forget things. I snap at my kids.
Busyness leads to stress and stress leads to all sorts of terrible things. So Reason Number Two? Busyness Makes us Sick.
I have a dear friend at church named Irma. Irma is 80 years old and had been a pastor’s wife most of her life. Irma is witty and beautiful. She’s been married to Arvin for like EVER. And she’s raised two sons who are now in full time ministry. Irma hears God’s voice. Her husband Arvin has heard God’s audible voice. Can you imagine? I’m not sure why, but she has taken a particular liking to me. She is the mentor I’ve always prayed for. Irma has been waiting for me to tell her when I can stop by her house one morning so she can show me how to make homemade bread. But I haven’t had time. She invited me in the spring. Last Sunday, I embraced Irma and said, “I’m so sorry I haven’t been over. The days just keep getting away from me.” To which she responded, “And pretty soon the days will be all gone.”
Even as I’m typing this, my heart aches because Irma is right.
When was the last time you sat and talked to a dear friend (on the cell phone in the car doesn’t count)? Or took a leisurely walk with your child while he or she looked at every bug and flower (and you never once said, hurry up)? Or lingered with your spouse over lunch (lunch with my spouse—you mean at my desk)? Or stopped and chatted with a stranger at Starbucks (can’t do that very well through the drive thru)?
Most of us have a long list of people we’d call, invite over, visit or write…if only we had more time. In a very overwhelming moment, I recently asked my husband, “how can I be expected to take care of people when all I do is take care of our stuff?”
And so it is with great conviction and not even a tiny bit of condemnation, I introduce you to Reason Three: Busyness makes us unavailable to people.
What if after your one-chapter Bible reading tomorrow morning, God nudged you to stay and worship a while? Just spend some time in His presence so He could reveal some insight or drop some wisdom into your heart? Would you have time? What if while running to the end of your driveway to retrieve the mail you noticed your elderly neighbor pulling weeds, and you felt God whisper, “Go visit her. She’s lonely.” Would you have time? What if during church on Sunday, God moved on your heart to organize an outreach to the homeless shelter down town. To feed and clothe the poor in your community? Would you have time?
Most of us don’t have time to fix dinner, change the light bulb or sort the sox. How could we possibly take on one more thing?
Reason Four: Busyness Makes us Unavailable to God.
What’s one thing you’d do, if you had more time? Please tell me about it.