The Toxic Impact of Multitasking

multitasking

My Multitasking Mistake

On a recent work task, I completed what I thought fell precisely in line with my directives. Instead, what I thought I needed to do was completely wrong. Not even close, actually. The mistake devastated me and threatened to send me into a dark, self-deprecating pit.

After the emotions wore off and I quit trying to blame someone else, I thought about my mistake and what led to it. Essentially, I performed a mental root cause analysis. I first tried to credit the error to the general excuse of miscommunication but realized that just lets everyone involved off the hook and doesn’t help much. So, in all honesty, I admitted that the cause of the mistake fell solely on myself, more specifically, on my attempt to multitask.

Instead of putting my full attention into a planning meeting, I got distracted by other tasks. The worst part? Well, there are two worst parts, actually. First, I wrote down the correct task needing completed. I just didn’t look at my notes because I failed to even remember I took them. Second, I thought this type of mistake existed only as a habit broken long ago. Clearly not.

The mistake serves as a reminder about the importance of maintaining focus, which impacts reality in significant ways.

multitasking-2

Focus Determines Reality

Not only does what you focus on determine the direction you take, but how many tasks you focus on does too. Focusing on multiple tasks at once divides and weakens your attention and productivity. It diminishes the quality of your efforts and slows overall progress.

Multitasking — originally a computer term — is technically impossible for humans. Our brains actually task flip, but it happens so quickly we can’t tell the difference. Computers can process several tasks at once. Humans cannot. Instead, as Jon Hamilton on NPR Morning Addition explains:

“Even simple tasks can overwhelm the brain if we try to do them all at once.”

“We frequently overestimate our ability to handle multiple tasks.”

I thought I’d beaten this bad habit of multitasking that contributed to my overwhelm and overload so many years ago and created the mediocre quality that eventually crept into every area of my life. And while it’s not fully returned, this backslide served to remind me of habits I need to refresh and reestablish if I am to maintain a right focus that in turn establishes the reality I desire for my life.

multitasking-3

The Mental Impact of Multitasking

In Why Single-Tasking Makes You Smarter, Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., calls multitasking toxic because it drains the brain, zaps cognitive resources and promotes early mental decline. Multitasking also decreases sharpness and increases cortisol, which can damage the memory center of the brain.

And those are just the long-term consequences. In the short term, multitasking overloads the brain, makes you less efficient, keeps thoughts at surface level and causes mistakes to occur more frequently.

Honestly, before experiencing the difference between a life filled with multitasking and one more oriented toward single-tasking, I did not buy into what Chapman asserts. Now, I realize the truth in how multitasking consumes a person’s mental resources to the point of almost complete ineffectiveness.

What toxic evidence of multitasking do you see in your life?

Next week we’ll explore the benefits of single-tasking and look at some basic habits to help get there.

Struggle to Victory by Crushing Doubts

Note: I am participating in the writing contest “Writers Crushing Doubt,” hosted by Positive Writer.” This post is my entry for that contest.

Crushing doubts

Overwhelmed. Overlooked. Taken for granted. Words that defined how I saw myself. A reality I accepted all too easily as truth.

In this reality, I blamed myself for failed dreams, fear and nonexistent motivation. The struggle simply weighed too heavily, and I looked for reasons to quit.

This struggle describes two areas that define so much of who I am. Chronic depression exists as a lens through which I see the world, and writing serves to give that perspective an outlet that heals rather than destroys.

Depression almost ended me on more than one occasion. Writing served as a deterrent, an outlet and escape, almost every time. Until one day it didn’t. On that day, they merged into a mental monster that almost wrote the end of the story.

When depression became the reason I wrote and and writing rarely existed outside of it, the struggle with overwhelm, lost motivation and self doubt consumed me. Feeling constantly outside of others’ reality increased my fears of rejection and became my operating system.

When adding more activity and looking to please others failed to bring any relief, the weight of each step grew even heavier. Alone in a crowd. Looking for respite of any sort. None came until I made a choice to see it.

Refusing to be consumed by this reality comes as a daily choice. A choice to allow my struggles to be a part of who I am but to not let them direct my steps. Instead of fear over what others might think of me because of my struggle with depression or how they judge what I write outside of what feels comfortable, I decided to let the desire to cage the monster through writing be my focus.

Coupled with encouragement from those who struggle with me, writing became the medium through which I could not only defeat depression but help others do the same. Likewise, defeating depression has become the focus leading me through the procrastination and fear that too often come with writing.

Overwhelmed. Overlooked. Taken for granted. Real struggles with depression and writing alike. Pushing through. Persevering. Doing so because it matters to me. This allows me to overcome the daily struggle that would otherwise consume me. I determine the path to take because the struggle to victory means goals come within reach and doubts are crushed.

DISCUSSION: What doubts do you crush as you struggle toward victory in your life?

A Pleasant Aroma?

Coffee

Coffee Snob

Sauteing onions. Anything tropical. Blankets dried outside. All smells I enjoy. Each one brings to mind a pleasant thought or memory. My favorite aroma, though, is coffee. It draws me in, and I find great comfort in its fragrance.

Those closest to me, and even many not so close for that matter, know I love coffee. They know it makes me a happier person, especially in the morning. I blame my mom. She began the addiction when I was 13 by bringing it to me every morning when she woke me up for school. (I’ve never really been a morning person.)

My youngest son likes to bribe me to take him places by promising to buy me coffee (It often works.) My husband knows the best way to keep in my good graces (and to romance me) is by having coffee with me regularly. In fact, he often lets me know when he’s having coffee even when he travels or is at work, and I’ll brew a cup just so we can have coffee “together.”

My husband and others closest to me also know the coffee must be high quality. Don’t waste my time with the cheap stuff or if the coffee’s been sitting for a while and has that burnt, bitter smell – and putrid taste – to it.

My pickiness with the coffee led my husband to affectionately label me a “coffee snob.” If coffee doesn’t smell fresh and isn’t of high quality, I want nothing to do with it. (Actually, much of the not-so-cheap stuff doesn’t meet my standards either.)

A Sweet FragranceCoffee 2

I wonder if my fragrance as a Christian draws people in like I’m drawn by the smell of good coffee or if it wrinkles noses like when I run into the aroma of sub-par or stale coffee. Are people repelled or drawn by my fragrance? Am I a “sweet, life-giving perfume” or a “hukster” unconcerned with quality (2 Corinthians 2:14-17, NLT)?

Even more importantly, what does God think about my aroma? He certainly desires to use every detail of our lives to illustrate His truth, to let His glory show through us (Colossians 3:17). He also uses that which we find appealing and that which repels us to help us better understand His desires for our living in relationship with Him and with others, to help us understand the impact of our aroma.

Even coffee, which a person usually either loves or hates, can show Scripture application in a way that not only sticks but that finds us regularly. For me, coffee provides a daily reminder to check my aroma, to determine whether or not I am appealing to others, to ask myself, “Do I have an aroma that pleases God and draws others to His grace and mercy or that repels them toward the world?”

DISCUSSION: How would you characterize your aroma?

How Do We Live Out Trust?

Trust

Living Out Trust

Trusting another person often makes a bold statement about your trust in God, a statement saying you choose obedience over trying to protect yourself. Because we have a 100% reliable source of trust, we know the answer to the question “Where Should You Place Your Trust?” So, we move forward in relationships with others who will let us down because we remain confident God never will.

Showing Trust in God

The best place to start living out trust that is rooted and grounded in God is through tangible expressions of that trust. In other words, living out trust comes through practical expressions and actions that show God exists as our source of trust and confidence. That happens through…

Actively showing our trust in God opens us up to living out trust by trusting others because we know our trust lies rooted in Him, not them. But, that doesn’t mean trusting in others is easy. It’s especially not when a wound from hurt is fresh or when it festers from long-term infection or when we know other wounds are forthcoming.

People & Trust

Trust in the LordPeople will break my trust again. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter though because they can never take away what truly matters, that which only comes from God.

The most important thing I have to lose – my salvation – can’t be lost. So, it’s not important as much whether others are trustworthy as it is whether or not I’m living a life that truly trusts in the only one who is trustworthy. That’s the root of living out trust.

Showing Where Trust Lies

We can show our trust in a variety of ways. Most importantly, that means showing where we place our trust and giving glory to God by doing so. That happens when we:

  • Choose to trust people knowing they’ll let you down. Do this knowing and proclaiming that God can and will make good out of it. Declare that He rights wrongs. (Luke 18:7)
  • Build relationships and strive for unity even amidst continually broken trust. If for no other reason, do it out of obedience to the One who is completely trustworthy. (Ephesians 2:21-22)
  • Look at our expectations and adjust or maybe even eliminate them. Do your part to live at peace with others. That involves not setting them up for failure. (Romans 12:18)
  • Don’t mistake people letting you down for God letting you down. Don’t blame God for people breaking your trust. Choose to follow God’s will regardless of what others do or don’t do. (Joshua 24:15)

Living out trust means choosing to continue trusting others even amidst hurt and betrayal. It means working to build trust and doing your part to live peacefully with others even when you know they’ll let you down. You can do this because God is bigger than and can heal the hurt from any broken trust.

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How Parents Can Model Balanced Technology Use

1380315_40329376Parenting & Technology

My parenting has never not known technology. In fact, I’m not sure how my parents disciplined or entertained me when I was a kid.

Today, my relationship with my kids cannot escape the influence of technology. Like it or not, technology shapes my kids’ thinking and will forever be a part of how they interact me and with the world.

More and more though, technology also impacts how I think and interact with the world. And I’m discovering that if I don’t deliberately choose how that interaction takes place and especially how much that interaction takes place, it too easily replaces valuable connection with others.

Training a Child

According to the Pew Internet Research Project 75% of all teenagers have a mobile phone, and 58% of all 12-year-olds have one. Of those kids…

    • 90% send/receive texts
    • 50% send 50 or more texts daily
    • 80% use them to take pictures
    • 64% share pictures with others
    • 60% listen to music
    • 46% play games
    • 32% swap videos
    • 23% access social networking sites

But before we are too frustrated with our children’s seemingly constant use of technology and blame it for the disconnect all to apparent in way too many families, consider the following data from the Barna Group

  • Parents are MORE likely than their teens to use their mobile devices regularly.
  • Parents watch just as much TV, movies & use the Internet as their kids daily.
  • 2/3 of parents think technology (cell phones, computers & video games) make family life better.
  • 1/3 of parents say they do not regularly take a break from technology.
  • 49% of parents worry that technology wastes their children’s time.
  • 21% of youth say parents have a double-standard regarding technology use.
  • 17% of youth say their parents bring their work home too much.
  • 39% of parents and 27% of tweens/teens say they’re frustrated that technology makes face-to-face conversations more difficult.

This research tells us that while teens/tweens spend a lot of time on their cell phones parents are equally guilty with regard to their use of technology. This research also illustrates that the Biblical instruction to “train a child in the way that he should go,” (Proverbs 22:6) most certainly now involves technology use not just in our children’s lives but in our own lives as well.

Modeling Technology

How can Christian parents model a balanced use of technology in a culture seemingly obsessed by and revolving around technology? Consider the following suggestions:

  1. 1105898_27026966Make face-to-face communication a priority. Since only about 10% of our communication happens with our words, a lot of communication fails to take place when limited to only words such as through text and email. Make a point to model effective communication in all your relationships, so your kids see you placing consistent value on it.
  2. Set technology boundaries. In a study by Psychology Today of 55 families, 1/3 of parents used mobile devices throughout a family meal, and 40% of parents ignored their children by focusing on their mobile devices leading to kids acting out to get parents’ attention. Start by banning mobile devices & television during meals, and consider creating regular breaks from technology.
  3. Remember that you can’t have rules without relationship. In other words, boundaries on technology or in any other area mean nothing when true relationship doesn’t exist. Get involved in your children’s lives. Instead of spending the entire track meet or baseball game on your phone, enjoy that moment in your child’s life. Instead of complaining about your kids always texting or playing video games, text them and play video games with them. The more consistent you are in developing and maintaining relationship, the less impact outside influences such as technology will have on the depth of those relationships.

For certain, there are a lot more ways we can model a balanced integration of technology into our lives. What are your suggestions?

What Can The Amish Teach Us About Technology?

Amish 2Much of my childhood involved interacting with the Amish. From age 6 to about 13, I spent time playing at one of three Amish neighbors living within a 1/2 mile of my home on a dusty dirt road in SW lower Michigan.

The Amish aren’t perfect. They’ve got family and financial challenges like the rest of us. But there are areas of life they seem to have figured out in a way that the rest of us constantly long for like a cool drink on a hot day. Yet, we act as if these accomplishments are uniquely available only to the Amish.

Simplicity and community stand out most as examples of this truth. While there are probably other reasons for their ability to maintain simple and community-oriented lives, the most obvious – perhaps because of its stark contrast to the surrounding culture – is the Amish approach to technology.

In “Amish Community Not Anti-Technology, Just More Thoughtful,” Jeff Brady explains their approach this way:

“The difference between Amish people and most other Americans is the deliberation that takes place before deciding whether to embrace a new technology. Many Americans assume newer technology is always better, and perhaps even inherently good. ‘The Amish don’t buy that,’ says Donald Kraybill… ‘They’re more cautious – more suspicious – wondering is this going to be helpful or is it going to be detrimental? Is it going to bolster our life together, as a community, or is it going to somehow tear it down?’”

Amish Studies supports Brady’s assessment by saying…

“The Amish do not consider technology evil in itself, but they believe that technology, if left untamed, will undermine worthy traditions and accelerate assimilation into the surrounding society. Mass media technology in particular, they fear, would introduce foreign values into their culture. By bringing greater mobility, cars would pull the community apart, eroding local ties. Horse-and-buggy transportation keeps the community anchored in its local geographical base.”

If we take an honest look around at our culture, we’ll have to admit that they are right. Technology seems to be doing exactly to our culture what they fear it could do to theirs.

Perhaps you’re wondering if it’s really working for them. Are they Amish truly not only able to keep most technology at bay, utilizing only what benefits their traditions and community, and still thrive and grow? Most of us believe we simply could not survive without our smart phones and laptops, so how could they with even less technology than that?

Not only are they keeping technology at bay and surviving without smart phones and laptops and even – gasp – television, but the Amish actually do have a growing and thriving community. Consider the following statistics provided by Amish Studies and combined with those from Conversant Life.

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Certainly, we can’t place all the blame on technology for the large exodus of today’s youth from our churches. However, we also can’t deny that it likely does have an impact, albeit a rather complex and difficult-to-understand one.

Adopting the Amish Approach to Technology

I’m not suggesting anyone become Amish, though I know of someone who did. What I am suggesting involves adapting their proactive approach to technology, which for many likely means no longer absent-mindedly riding technology’s superhighway.

  1. Be deliberate about the technology you choose to use and when you use it.
  2. Don’t assume new technology is always better.
  3. Consider if any given technology helps or hinders your life as a whole.
  4. Ask if a technology will bolster or tear down your relationships.
  5. Make simplicity a priority.

Technology seems virtually impossible to avoid for most people. To a great extent, we actually have little choice about if and how we use it. But as the Amish show us by their lifestyle and thriving church, we don’t have to be slaves to technology. We can choose not to let it define us.

DISCUSSION: What lessons about technology from the Amish can you immediately apply?

Note: I am also guest posting today at Cycleguy’s Spin, telling my “second-chance story” titled Kari’s Second Chance: Learning from Jonah. Stop by if you have a minute, and check out Bill’s other posts too. He shares from a pastor’s heart, and I am always blessed by it!

3 Ways to Reduce Busyness & Discover Simplicity

busyToo busy?

Recently, I overheard a friend say, “I am done with holidays.” She explained that holidays were just too stressful and gave her too much to do along with having to deal with the drama that often accompanies family gatherings.

Since I know this person well, I also know that these words really characterize her whole life. She always has too much to do, and she’s always stressed. Which basically means that the holiday (Thanksgiving in this case) undeservedly received the blame for her stress.

Why are you so busy?busyness

Our culture is one of busyness, and I truly feel burdened for those I know and love who are simply too busy. This burden comes from living in that reality, being broken by it, and rebuilding a simple life without the weight of busyness. In other words, I’ve been there and know the way out. More importantly, I know that there IS a way out.

Much of this busyness comes from the seasons of life. Kids need attention, loved ones are sick, work is overloaded and ministry calls. This busyness, to a large extent, is simply the inevitable busyness of life itself.

But busyness reaches toxic levels when we, by deliberate choice, choose to do more than we are capable of doing. These are the things we say “yes” to because we “should” or because “someone has to do it.” They are the things born out of perfectionism and long-standing habits. This toxic level reaches epic proportions when we pile on “things to do” as a way to avoid doing the hard work of creating a balanced life focused on true priorities. Instead, we get lost in the multitude of activities, obligations and commitments.

When we’re too busy, we don’t have time for deepening relationships. We don’t have time to work through issues that created rifts. We don’t have time to read that which would deepen our character. We don’t have time to get the rest we need. We don’t have time to make healthy choices. And, worst of all, we don’t have time to spend one-on-one with God.

But my friend who said, “I am done with holidays” actually got at a very important point. Busyness and overload seem amplified during the holidays. We may casually notice at other times, but busyness suddenly jumps out as out of control during the holidays. The time between Thanksgiving and New Years seems to magnify the need to slow down and enjoy friends and family. It emphasizes the crucial need to worship God made flesh, which has a way of making us realize our desperate need for a simpler life.

Trapped in busyness?

Many people feel trapped in busyness. They realize that busyness creates an inner conflict that seems impossible to reconcile. This becomes amplified during the holidays and is really why my friend meant when she said, “I am done with holidays.” With that in mind, let’s explore three ways to reduce busyness and discover simplicity no matter the time of year.

busy 2Reduce Busyness and Discover Simplicity

1.) Make small changes. Small changes done consistently over time add up to make a huge difference. Becoming instantly un-busy won’t happen, but making small adjustments will slowly reduce busyness. Taking your time with this process rather than trying to “quit cold turkey” increases its staying power.

2.) Accept the painful truth. You will have to say “no” to some good things. You will have to let things you really want to do go in order to do the things that are truly important.

3.) Commit busyness to prayer. Ask God to show you how to become less busy. Ask Him to show you how to simplify. And most importantly, ask Him to change your heart towards busyness and to help you realize that obedience to Him does not mean saying “yes” to every opportunity that passes through your awareness.

Transforming a busy life is really hard. It requires brokenness. It requires letting go of attachment to accomplishments. It means admitting that under our own strength, we try to do too much. And it means admitting that without some help and without deliberate choice, we will continue feeling the increasing weight of busyness.

Responsibility and Trust

Trust God

When your kids frustrate you. Trust God.

When your boss doesn’t agree with you. Trust God.

When a friend forgets to call you… again. Trust God.

If you’ve lost your job and can’t find another. Trust God.

When you feel overwhelmed. Trust God.

When your schedule is out of control. Trust God.

If you and your spouse just aren’t communicating. Trust God.

If you feel constantly work out and tired. Trust God.

If you lost your temper yet again. Trust God.

If life is just a constant struggle. Trust God.

The Blame Game

Unfortunately, our first reaction in these and other trials, tests and temptations isn’t usually trust. It’s blame.

We blame our kids for being disrespectful.

We blame our boss for not listening or micromanaging.

We blame our friends for being selfish or too busy for us.

We blame employers for being too picky about qualifications.

We blame the government for taking our job away.

We say life is just too demanding, others are constantly asking too much from us, and our spouses are just distant. Besides, we can’t help losing our temper… we’ve always had a bad temper, and we always will. Not our fault.

The blame game can be very easy to play. Too easy. And maybe, when blaming others doesn’t work, we blame God.

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

Blame avoids getting at the root cause, the desires that entice us. As a result, blame avoids us taking responsibility for our parts in any situation.

Responsibility

Responsibility is hard and uncomfortable. Taking responsibility means admitting we’re at least somewhat at fault. It means admitting the need for us to change. Focusing on blaming others also takes immense energy. It also holds off victory in our lives.

When we decide to take responsibility, we can finally experience true growth. We then discover true freedom as the chains of blame fall way and victory becomes a reoccurring reality.

Taking responsibility also shows integrity, which makes following Christ more appealing to non-Christians. It’s a conscious choice we must make over and over again but one that pays big dividends — freedom that leads to victory.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

When we take responsibility for the role we play in trials, tests and temptations, we show trust in God. We show we trust that He has equipped us with the gifts, abilities and experience needed to struggle to victory. We trust that He’s doing the same for others too.

Taking responsibility also shows trust in the testing of your faith. Trials, testing and temptations help us grow by first showing us how we’re doing, and then by increasing our endurance.

“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

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Stain Free

While doing laundry one day, I pulled some clothes out of the washer and along with them, an ink pen. For some stupid reason, I pulled the cap off the pen, and some ink dripped on to my jeans… my favorite pair of jeans.

I would love to say one of my kids or my husband was the culprit, but I can’t. It was a Sharpie pen, and I’m the only one who uses them. In fact, no one else is allowed to use them because they are my writing pens.

With 10 minutes before needing to leave, I take off my jeans and work to get the ink stain out. I put a towel inside the jeans behind the stain, take a wet cloth with some dish soap and start scrubbing. I prayed too. Seriously… my favorite pair.

Thankfully, the stain came out. The ink actually soaked into the towel. If I hadn’t put the towel inside, the back of the jeans would have absorbed the stain.

This potentially devastating incident reminded me of salvation for several reasons.

First, my mistakes caused the stain.

I couldn’t blame anyone else. So often, we want to look for somewhere else to place blame. We try to avoid admitting we did anything wrong. This is pride. The stain on my jeans was my fault, just like I cannot blame anyone else for the sin in my life.

Second, without Jesus absorbing my stains, I would just experience them in another part of my life.

Had I not put the towel in the pant leg, I would either have had to scrub the other side of my jeans or given them up as lost. But the towel took on the stain and removed it from my jeans. Jesus does the same for us. He did it on the cross at Calvary. When we admit our sins and ask for forgiveness, he absorbs those sins, and we no longer have to bear their stain on our lives. Sure, there are consequences, but we certainly do not become useless. He washes us clean and makes us presentable again.

Third, acting quickly made all the difference.

If I hadn’t taken the time to get the stain out right away, the ink would have dried, and my favorite jeans would have become my work-around-the-house jeans. This equates to keeping short accounts in my spiritual life.

When we allow sin to remain in our lives, it becomes a permanent stain. Sure, Jesus removes it whenever we ask him to, but a stain’s imprint (the consequences) becomes more prominent the longer we allow it to remain in our lives.

The sooner we ask for forgiveness, the longer we get to live without that stain. That’s also less time for consequences to wreak havoc. Doesn’t mean we won’t have to live with any consequences, but certainly the impact lessens the sooner we repent.

Looking Back Lessons

Looking back on the inky jeans incident, I realize the stain resulted from my failure to think first. I just pulled off the cap. So often, sin happens because we don’t stop and think before acting. The incident also happened because I failed to take care of the pen in the first place. When we intentionally avoid situations that can lead to sin, more of our lives will remain stain-free.

Also, I am thankful that the pen fell out of the washer onto the floor and didn’t make its way into the dryer. Otherwise, a whole load of clothing may have gotten permanently stained. With temptation, God either gives us a way to bear it or a “way out.” (I Corinthians 10:13) It’s a matter of whether or not we take that way out and if we rely on Him when it’s presented to us. If we don’t, sin often results.

Everyday situations present us with opportunities to hear from God. Even an ink stain teaches us His truths. When we are open to hearing from Him at any time, we find that He works in the smallest details in some very powerful ways. And the small changes that He makes in our lives always add up to make a huge difference. In this case, victory over sin!