We have become a frenetic people, always rushing and doing multiple tasks at once. We read emails or check Instagram and at the same time have breakfast with the family. We exercise and listen to podcasts. Watch TV and read. This creates a staccato mind, jumping moment to moment from one thought to another, never settled. The problem is not that we occasionally multitask; it is that we almost always multitask. When we need to give singular focus to one task, we now find it hard to quiet our racing mind from all of the extraneous other tasks that we need to be doing.

Depth comes only from single-minded focus. Multitasking has even worse ramifications when it comes to our precious relationships. How often have I allowed myself to pick up my phone for a quick check when I am spending time with my family, who I love with all my heart? Giving one person our undivided attention is now seen as a luxury.

Have we forgotten how to singletask?

Jesus had only three years to accomplish a rather mountainous mission and yet I am not aware of a single time that he multitasked, nor can I think of a time when He rushed. He never got caught, like I have, half-heartedly paying attention to the person in front of Him.

In our attempts to accomplish so many things have we lost the joy of the moment? Our children, spouses, and friends are victims of our divided attention. One wife lamented about her husband in a poignant movie scene, “Even when he was there, he was not really there.” Does God often feel like that wife? I often multitask with God. I pray while getting my exercise or driving the car. I study the Bible often with the thought of what new idea I can teach. Better than nothing, but is better than nothing what God deserves?

Perhaps the time has come to relearn singletasking. Here are four practical steps to help us relearn singletasking.

  • Turn off – Turn off all outside streams of noise and sources of distraction.
  • Quiet down – Allow your mind to relax for a minute before you dive in.
  • Slow down – Slowing down our internal engine allows focus to take over.
  • Enjoy the moment – Once we reacquaint ourselves with singular focus, we will come to treasure those moments.

Turn over a new leaf today. Give your most important work your undivided attention. Give the next person you meet with your undivided attention. Give God your undivided attention. At first, you may find it difficult to focus, but with practice, singletasking may become the best part of your day.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Mary Allen says:

    I understand the author’s point. Some people actually are wired to mulit-task. I am one of them. I am more “settled” and actually more “present” when doing more than one thing. Perhaps it is best to know one’s self and not feel pressure to do one or the other. Just a thought…. Isn’t God the ultimate multi-tasker? 😉

    • Interesting thoughts! I think your experience of being “settled” says a lot about your multitasking. I agree that many things warrant multitasking. In my mind, it is delineating the important things, like being fully present with people or major focus-intensive projects, that deserve singletasking. As you said, knowing yourself is key! Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Fred Larmore says:

    Amen, Tommy. Our brain is designed to do one thing at a time. Studies are showing just how much chaos and addiction is occurring in peoples’ (of all ages) brains because of the interruption of technology screens and sounds. Productivity also improves with “singletasking”. Thanks for sharing more truth.

  • Mom (Stella) Thompson says:

    One of my favorite sayings is from “Alice in Wonderland” the Mad Hatter running around in circles saying “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late”. Reminds me of today’s world until you get too old to ru n in circles. Ha. xo

  • Ryan Foster says:

    Working in a fast-paced corporate job, I can completely relate to this topic. It’s almost comical (but sad, really), the number of ways I am able to ‘chat’ with people that I work with. Between 2 cells phones, 2 instant message platforms, email, and in-person ‘shoulder tapping’, I feel like I’m never uninterrupted. I find my mind constantly trying to pick up where I left off, having to spin unnecessary cycles . The funny part is that the company thinks all this makes us “collaborative” and “productive” and in reality, it slows progress to a crawl. Forget the fact that quality of work goes down the drain.

    Regarding family and phones, such true words! Why in our right minds would we interrupt a family member’s interesting story from the day, that they waited all afternoon to tell you, with a pointless and silly facebook or instagram notification?