What If Tackling Multiple Tasks at Once Hinders Our Ability to Be Good Stewards in the Workplace?

"In a nutshell, the cognitive detriments associated with [task-switching] keep us from accomplishing all that we are capable of accomplishing. Thus, our minds are not being stewarded well. We are wasting our valuable, God-given cognitive abilities."

1556 reads

There are 4 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Multitasking & productivity definitely needs more study. First, thriving is a complex thing, and sometimes a process that slows production a bit compared to another, produces better results in the long run--even more results, because the worker is able to remain productive (maybe even happily) for longer periods of time. 

So... 3% slower for 15% longer... when that's the trade, the "less efficient process" is better.

Second, I've found that for me at least there is good multitasking and bad multitasking. Haven't yet figured out the fundamental differences. But when I do certain tasks at the same time (of course, switching rapidly between them is what's really happening) it results, eventually, in a deeper level of concentration, higher overall energy, and in the end, more and better output.

By contrast, some tasks, when done solo, suck me into deeper and deeper attention to detail until I am contemplating every inconsequential micro option... and then circling in indecision. Somebody walks up and says hello and it takes me eternities to pull out of the deep well of focus and notice that they are there!  But very little was actually getting done so they were doing me a favor.

So the right mix of complementary tasks is the ideal for me and when I'm able to get there, it's really quite enjoyable as well as more productive.

G. N. Barkman's picture

John Wesley was a multi-tasker.  He divided each hour into three sections, moving from task to task about every twenty minutes.  He believed this kept his mind fresh, and allowed him to accomplish more each day.  I have found his formula useful in some situations.  (Not in serious study and sermon preparation.)  I do not follow his pattern slavishly, but have learned that if I plan to address three separate items each hour, I stay fresher.  Instead of plowing through one two hour task until completed, I give it about twenty minutes each hour over the course of five hours. I usually accomplish more using this method than any other.

G. N. Barkman

Steve Newman's picture

As one who has worked in IT for 28 years, I have observed how continuous multitasking has decayed my abilities to think deeply without distraction. It is a real obstacle for me to overcome on a regular basis to be able to teach and preach when it takes a good deal of time to have clear and cogent thinking. Multitasking is definitely not a benefit in sermon prep, as Greg has noted. Being able to multitask has helped me to be able to work IT and pastor, but it is so important to slow myself down to preach well. Not doing so will sentence congregations to a shallowness that is unfruitful.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

We probably do not all mean the same thing by multitasking. I don't really think of myself as multitasking at all unless I've got two or three applications running and I'm alternating between them every few minutes. When the three applications are the right ones, they fuel eachother. 

But no...  study and sermon/teaching prep are not things I usually do in that mode. Focus and energy were often problems during my high-pulpit-put years. At peak, I was doing four, sometimes five, separate messages at church and three or four classroom sessions at school. Sunday morning sermons remained the most challenging of the lot.

For me, doing that sort of work "efficiently" was more a matter of timing and rhythm than anything else. There was absolutely no substitute for 2+ hour blocks of time early in the morning, usually pretty close to first thing. And there are still tasks I cannot do reasonably well any other time.  (But it's very, very hard to get that time now!)