Thrive and Survive Through Multi-Tasking

By on July 3, 2011

woman sitting at desk with phone to ear, holding cell phone, in front of computerBy Susan Lawrence –

Have you read the recent research that multi-tasking is bad for you*? Apparently, people who grow accustomed to moving quickly from one task to another are easily distracted by irrelevant information, less productive, and less successful on tests. Really! I’m offended.

Who are the multi-taskers in disguise who are skewing these results? I work from home, and not only do I work a 40+ week, I fit in family, volunteer work, regular exercise, housecleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking…must I continue?

Okay, let’s be fair. We all handle multi-tasking a little different. It’s overwhelming to some while others feed off the thrill. Sorry if I sound a bit harsh. Perhaps it’s more helpful to assume a middle-of-the-road approach. I’ll admit multi-tasking can not only slow you down in some situations; it can be downright dangerous, like texting while driving, or at least cause major energy depletions. So here are Thrive and Survive tips for multi-tasking:

Thrive – The “DO’s” of multi-tasking.
1. Set priorities.
Lists are great, but they can also be overwhelming. Be realistic when you create your “to-do” lists. If you make a weekly list but notice a pattern of needing to carry over more than a couple items into the following week, or you feel overwhelming pressure at the end of the week to complete your list, set smaller goals. Continue to create a weekly list but also break it down into daily lists, or early week, late week, and weekend lists.

If you’re not used to lists, allow yourself some wiggle room in the beginning. It will take awhile to get familiar with how many things you can realistically accomplish. Be realistic with time frames. Slightly pad your times, so if something takes longer than expected, you have a forgiving schedule. Watch for patterns. If you notice you consistently feel too much pressure, don’t get your list done, or ignore your list altogether, you need to re-assess.

And remember, you’re lists are supposed to help you, not control your life. It’s okay to put things on your lists such as “do something special with my daughter” or “call and listen to my best friend.” Yes, you might feel guilty putting people on the same list as grocery shopping and cleaning, but the note on your list might be just the motivation you need to set aside your daily tasks and share your life with the people who mean the most to you.

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. – 1 Corinthians 3:7 (NLT)

2. Schedule rest.
Multi-tasking isn’t just about accomplishing tangible tasks. It’s about balance. Rest is part of the balance. Without sufficient rest, you will be less healthy and less effective. Your relationships and work will suffer. You need to be recharged. Schedule time to crawl up in God’s lap and take a nap. Take time to be rejuvenated by studying his Word. Listen to his guidance and comfort when you pray.
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. – Luke 5:16

3. Be flexible and realistic.
You won’t finish what you don’t start, so get started. You won’t finish anything if you start too many things, so finish something. Know you’ll speed through some tasks, and others will take time. Some can be done on the go, where it’s noisy, and some require silence and isolation. Procrastinating has consequences. So does having some things done well ahead of schedule. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Challenge yourself, and forgive yourself. Expect growth, and allow for setbacks.

If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. – Proverbs 15:32

Survive – The “DON’Ts” of multi-tasking.
1. Don’t exceed your limits.
We all have limits. Multi-tasking can be addictive. It’s the thrill of completing one more project, answering one more email, tweeting one more time. You’re only given so much time in each day, month, and lifetime. Spend it wisely. If you’re (1) obedient to what God wants you to do, and (2) using time wisely, God will provide every second you need. He’s not bound by the confines of time. He’s the ultimate time-management expert, and he’ll manage the time he gives you if you’ll let him.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

2. Don’t say “yes” to everything.
Efficient people tend to get asked to do a lot, because they appear to be able to handle a lot. Say “yes” to the things God prompts you to do. Say “no” when you have no prompt (or God is saying “no”!). “Who else will do it if I don’t?” and “Surely it won’t take much time.” are not adequate reasons for taking on another responsibility. “God wants me to do it” is your prompt for a “yes.” And it’s not just about your personal obedience to God. If you say “yes” when you’re supposed to say “no,” you’re taking the place of someone who is supposed to serve in that role! Only you can be you, and you can’t be anyone else.

But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. – 1 John 2:5

3. Don’t try to duplicate someone else’s system.
It’s great to learn from other people. There’s not need to recreate the wheel. Yet at the same time, you’re unique. Your gifts, responsibilities, skills, and relationships require customized organization. Try something you read or see is working for someone else, but if it doesn’t work for you, move on to another approach.

So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. – 1 Corinthians 9:26

Choose your tasks well. God has a pure purpose for you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. – 1 Timothy 4:15

(If you run into the multi-taskers in disguise who are giving the rest of us a bad name, please share this article with them!)

*http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/08/25/multitasking.harmful/index.html

Susan Lawrence has a passion for pouring into women through writing, speaking, and training, inspiring women to seek God’s purpose, and grow in purposeful and healthy ways. She’s a Women’s Ministry Consultant who has developed resources and coordinated trainings and networking for international ministries and denominations. Get to know her better and check out her Bible studies – Pure Purpose and Pure Emotion – and more at http://purepurposebook.wordpress.com/.

About Susan Lawrence

Susan Lawrence has a passion for pouring into women through writing, speaking, and training, inspiring women to seek God’s purpose, and grow in purposeful and healthy ways. She’s a Women’s Ministry Consultant who has developed resources and coordinated trainings and networking for international ministries and denominations. Get to know her better and check out her Bible studies – Pure Purpose and Pure Emotion – and more at http://purepurposebook.wordpress.com/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thrive and Survive Through Multi-Tasking