No multitasking

I hate it when my world view gets challenged.

For example, I like to do lots of things at the same time.  It is not unusual for me to be on a staff call, responding to email, texting my wife, and eating lunch all at the same time.  For the most part I have never considered this to be a problem.  As a matter of fact I have viewed this “skill” as a demonstration of efficiency and good stewardship.

Earlier this week I was at a meeting sponsored by the Fund for Theological Education.  During the opening session we were presented with a Covenant of Presence.  This document listed 12 touchstones for healthy conversations:

  1. Be present as fully as possible
  2. Listen generously
  3. What is offered in the circle is by invitation, not demand
  4. We come as equals
  5. Author your story
  6. Hold each other’s stories with care
  7. Respond to others with open honest questions
  8. No fixing, no saving, no advising, no judging and no setting each other straight
  9. When the going gets rough, turn to wonder
  10. Be mindful and respectful of time
  11. Practice confidentiality care
  12. Know that it is possible to emerge from our time together refreshed, surprised and less burdened than when we came

After we were finished the group leader asked if anything was missing.

 I thought the list was complete.

 But every group has one person who feels they have something to say. This gathering was no different.

 A gentleman on the other side of the room raised his hand.  In my mind, this was the perfect opportunity to check my cell phone for new messages.  Before I was able to retrieve my phone out of my backpack, his words caught my attention.

 “No multitasking should be added to the list.  It is not possible to be fully present with other people when you are multitasking.”

 My initial reaction was completed disagreement.  This was the kind of statement that could change my way of getting things done.  The more I have thought about what this man had to say, the more I find myself recognizing the truth of his statement.

 Multitasking devalues what I am doing and when people are involved it devalues relationships.

 Philippians 2:7 talks about Jesus emptying himself. He chose not to multitask; he became focused.

 The next time you are visiting with a friend and the phone rings, try letting it go to voice mail.  When your spouse wants to talk, turn off the TV.  Learning to be fully present is a good skill to cultivate.

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1 Comment

Filed under Family, FTE, ministry, Philippians 2:7, the Fund for theological education, theology, Uncategorized

One response to “No multitasking

  1. Russ

    Agreed. This is a pet peeve of mine.

    Ken and I tried to implement a ‘no laptops not in use for presentation or minute-taking allowed in meetings’ policy a few years back in response to what felt like very dismissive and disrespectful ‘non-presence’ on the part of MMN leadership in a number of meetings we were in. When you’re trying to have a group (or even one on one) conversation about something important (otherwise why waste everyone’s time – another thing we were unofficially working on), and the leaders in the group are only half engaged (nodding, muttering while staring at their laptop), and then pop-up to grace us w/ some ‘words of wisdom’ (showing their increased attention by tilting their laptop screen half closed) before going back to email or be-jewelled or whatever was so engrossing, they would often betray their lack of engagement with thoughts/comments that we clearly missing the subtleties of the discussion or even completely out of step with the conversation. Not only was it disrespectful to the rest of the participants, it was painfully embarrassing to the ‘non-participant’ even if they didn’t pick up on it. I remember a number of distinct times when I would catch another’s gaze and exchange subtle expressions of disbelief or amusement over what was just said before carrying on the conversation. There was some ‘lip service’ to our idea, but was quickly ‘shelved’ and I don’t think there’s been any real progress. We even toyed with trials of the ‘stand-up only’ meeting method that requires everyone to be present, engage the objective at hand efficiently, and move on/get back to work. That definitely didn’t get any traction at all…

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