If you’re reading this, you’re probably multitasking. The reason you’re probably multitasking is you’re reading this on a computer or your phone, so you have several other tabs open, or you’re checking texts, or watching TV as you check your phone…
I know. I would be doing the same. Even typing this up invites me to all sorts of other tasks while I try to FOCUS on just writing this post.
The challenge we face is to stay focused. We tend to pride ourselves on the ability to multitask… but MONOtasking is something that is still needed as a practice. (And I just wrecked that possibility by linking to another article.)
Here is the challenge:
Mute your music. Turn off your television. Put down your sandwich and ignore that text message. While you’re at it, put your phone away entirely. (Unless you’re reading this on your phone. In which case, don’t. But the other rules still apply.)
You are now monotasking.
It’s incredibly difficult… but it has its benefits. When we take the time to pay attention to one thing, we find a new sense of pleasure. If we keep trying to do several things and don’t focus on a particular task, we may find ourselves getting bored too easily.
We have “playlists” because a single album by a singer is just too “boring” for us anymore. We don’t want to try to listen to some song we “don’t get” or find “boring,” so we pick a song here, a song there, and build a playlist. For some albums (in a day gone by perhaps) the whole album was a journey. If we stayed with it, we may find something opening up to us that we could miss if we just picked a song here, and a song there.
It’s the reason television shows we tweet through feel tiresome and books we pick up and put down and pick up again never seem to end. The more we allow ourselves to be distracted from a particular activity, the more we feel the need to be distracted. Paying attention pays dividends.
One practice I try to have every year is to get away in silence. I will go to a retreat center and have 48 hours (minimum) of silence. My task there is to wait on the Lord. I don’t take a stack of books to “catch up on reading.” I take a PRINT Bible and a journal. I also don’t have a goal of reading through a bunch of Scripture. Before going I will pray and ask what passage I am to focus on for the retreat and my full anticipation is to stay in that passage the entire time.
These days it is so extremely difficult to set the phone aside and not check email or Facebook. But when I give myself to that practice, I find a re-set in my life.
In other opportunities to practice monotasking, put the phone aside if you’re with someone and LISTEN to them. Or, take a print book and read it. In silence. No music. No TV. No phone near you.
Multitasking is part of life. Focus needs to be a part of our lives as well. Our attention levels are too shallow and we need the opportunity to return to some depth.