Is Multi-Tasking Doing More Harm Than Good?

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There was a Howler monkey above us on one of our hikes through the woods in a Belize rainforest, but we couldn’t see it due to the foliage.

I’ve noticed something different, on dog walks through our neighborhood. In previous Septembers, the acorns fell from the trees and popped me in the head or hit the top of the car, but I haven’t gotten pelted once this September. I’ve noticed this fall the squirrels seem manic to pick them off the trees before they even fall to the ground. As I’m walking the dog, the discarded shells crunch under my feet. It is systematic of God’s creation. Acorns ripen, squirrels forage, winter comes. I’ve always been told it is a sign that winter will be cold if the squirrels act this way. In Florida, a girl can only hope.

My work load has grown this year, and recently I took a course on Productivity for Creatives, for we creatives are known to be heavy right- brained individuals, and are viewed by society as often scattered between our inspirations. I can’t speak for all creatives out there, but it is true for me. In fact, all along I thought multi-tasking was a skill resume-worthy. I can swing a skillet with one hand, have the laundry going, pop some Goldfish in Bella’s mouth, all the while typing out an essay on the computer while my paint dries on a canvas nearby. 

The teacher of the course pointed out that multi-tasking is not something to brag about after all. In fact, recent studies have shown, that those that multi-task regularly produce below-par product, have trouble getting larger projects completed, and may be hurting their brain in the process. Gulp! Our brains are not wired to do more than one thing at a time hence multitaskers are not actually working on multiple projects at once, but are switching their attention from one project to another often only getting small parts done.

The Time Management Class for Creatives, (You can find the class here:Creative Live Classes) taught the time-blocking method. In a nutshell,  you keep a master running list of everything you are working on, and place the items in blocks of time on your daily schedule. One project should never take more than two hours (which is the brain’s limit on one task) and there should be a fifteen-minute break between each. 

I’ve been trying it out, but I have to admit it’s been a challenge, for someone who has the attention span of a gnat add to that three children at home, one at college, three pets at home, one at college, and husband. Discipline Tammy…Discipline…Bang head on desk…Focus!

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Our last day, a whole family of Howlers came to see us and hung out in the trees surrounding our house.

One summer, we took the kids to Belize. We rented a house that sat atop a mountain and overlooked the tops of the trees in the rainforest. Several days, we walked down the mountain, through the woods  into this beautiful meadow by a river. It was what I imagined the Garden of Eden to look like. One day in the meadow my sons pointed out the leaf cutter ants to me. They had cut this distinct trench through the grass and were carrying leaves five times their size through the trench. Thousands of ants working together climbed up the tree, and came down in this clean pattern to take the leaves to their nest.  I was mesmerized and stood watching them for a while. It reminded me of the passage in Proverbs.

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The trail the Leaf Cutter ants made through the meadow.
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Their trail up the tree. Amazing isn’t it?

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8 English Standard Version. If you observe the ant, it is an example of not only diligence, but organization as well.

Then there’s God Himself. Think about the story of Creation. I went back and really read it recently, and noticed that God created A before creating B in order to get to C. It was a very systematic and sustainable way of creating the world. In order to form man, I must have the soil, I will create soil first. In order for man to survive there must be fruit, I will plant fruit trees.

 

I am filled with awe.

God is creative and not scattered. He works systematically and within blocks of time (days). He’s also managed to find time to rest. 

Is there hope for me? For you? For us?

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him’ male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1: 26-27 ESV)

We were made in His image. He’s creative and organized, so we must have the ability buried in us somewhere. We just need to develop it. And you know, God must believe in our abilities too, for He made us managers of all His creation. 

Something to think about.

Enjoy the fall breezes and take a minute to check out those squirrels, what are they doing in your area?

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 2:

Don’t you love it when God speaks to you through nature? I don’t recommend putting nature above the Word, but He does reveal great wisdom through His creation. Last week, we started to hear from the Chestnut Tree, if you missed it, you can find it in the previous blog post. This week we will continue to listen to the wisdom this tree speaks…

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Life Lesson 2:  You must prune the little sprouts at the bottom of the tree in order for its energy to be used in growing fruit at the top.

The Chestnut Tree wants us to know that as followers of Christ our energy should be used in creating fruit, not wasted on the sprouts. Have you ever heard the expression “If Satan can’t tempt you to sin, he’ll make you busy.”? He would love for you to waste your talents on meaningless busyness. This is a constant battle in my own life. I get opportunities thrown at me from every direction as I’m sure you all experience. If you spend all your energy on too little of too much, you will be throwing your pearls to swine. We must remember to prayerfully seek God’s will of where He wants our talents and time to go so we can grow fruit that points towards heaven.

Currently, I am wife to Jay, mother to three teenage boys, and a three -year old daughter. I am writing a memoir, keeping up with a blog, and on the writing team for She Leads Daily. I lead a women’s Bible study, keep up with a pet-filled home, and on weekends you will find me working on a painting or heading to the farm. It’s a full life…an abundant life…a blessed life.

How do I get it all done? First be clear, I’m a work in progress, but God has given me three time-management tools that I utilize. The first is to start your day with a quiet time. I awaken before Bella, grab my coffee and spend time reading the Bible and praying. This has become so important in my life. My mind is sharper and I’m more focused on the “have to” list.  I don’t look at this as a check-off item, but the time I savor with the Savior. It is a treat to start the day in peace and spend time listening when your days are full.

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The second time management tool is to pray before committing to any opportunities that come your way. Recently, She Leads Daily underwent new ownership. Throughout the holidays, I leaned toward ending my writing job with them once the new editor took over. I prayed about it, knowing my decision was to be rendered by Sunday. I worried if I spent time writing for SLD, that would be time away from my blog and book. I also feared running out of inspiration and creativity.

Saturday morning, I attended a women’s conference at my church and the speaker, Christi Haag said several things that resonated with me. First, she said to extend grace, “always pour out grace.” The new editor for SLD needed grace in the form of a writing team. The speaker also challenged us to “do things afraid.” If you do things afraid, your stepping out of your comfort zone and God will strengthen your faith. I needed to trust God would work alongside me and see to it I didn’t run out of time or inspiration. The last thing was, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 New English Standard. By putting God first in my daily routine as I was already doing, time, productivity, and inspiration will follow.

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The last time management tool is to get out your cutting shears and cut away at time-wasters — any activity that lacks eternal value. Take notice of what activities in your life are time-wasters. I want to be clear we all need activities that relax, refresh and we enjoy, that is not what I am referring to. I’m describing the afternoon we stop our work to check out Pinterest for just a few minutes, which leads to insecurity about our wardrobe, leading to an online shopping spree including price comparisons, then…awe what’s that?  I see there’s a picture hanging on the wall behind the model, I have to have it, search for it, I know it’s somewhere, I knew I’d find it! Oh, but Jay will kill me if I spend that much on a painting…I could probably paint that, but I don’t have time to paint it…go to eBay and find it used…hours later no luck. Instead of cooking dinner for the family, I’m standing in the line at Michaels buying the canvas, that lands in the closet for a rainy day project.  See what I mean? Waste. As you can see I speak from experience. I found myself frustrated and anxiety-ridden when deadlines popped up. I locked myself in my office feeling blocked when God shined a light on how much time I wasted surfing the internet over silly non-eternal stuff. Don’t waste your life. Get out those shears and cut away those little branches so you can utilize your energy on something that will produce a more satisfying fruit with eternal value.

What about you? Is there anything you need to clip away from your life in order to release your energy toward something eternal?

Next week, we’ll examine what happens when you stake a Chestnut Tree too tight. See you by the Chestnut.

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