Why do so many of us find ourselves working so hard doing so many things at the same time? “We are good multitaskers,” we tell ourselves. But multitasking is a myth. We cannot be “good at multitasking” because multitasking is not real.
The human brain, created by God, does not do many things at the same time. It does one thing at a time but it knows how to switch between things rapidly. This constant switching involves a stop-start process in the brain that takes its toll on us. “It makes us less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time, it can sap our energy,” says Dr. Nancy K. Napier in her article, The Myth of Multitasking.
We are not designed to be multitaskers.
What is going on in our brains is really an outcome of what is going on in our hearts. We are restless, weary and heavy laden.
Multitasking can become a coping mechanism. It gives us the immediate relief of feeling as if we are accomplishing something. The brain and the body enjoy the feeling of completion. We feel better about ourselves. Perhaps we need to feel better because we are actually feeling miserable.
Multitasking can become a God-substitute that we use to escape difficult emotional, personal, relational and spiritual realities we do not want to face. It is more desirable to feel competent than to feel vulnerable. It is easier to keep yourself busy than to present yourself broken before the Lord.
Multitasking is killing us slowly. In an Agatha Christie novel I will not name, the murderer used arsenic to kill their victim because it kills slowly and invisibly. It is lethal and undetectable. Multitasking gives us a temporary and false high but secretly, invisibly, and undetectably it is wearing us down.
What if the busyness of our lives is a reflection of the restlessness in our hearts?
My wife and I have been through a season of “many things.” So many things to do before it is too late, so many things happening at the same time, so many things we did not do that simply give us more things to do. It often feels like there is no relief, no respite and no end to the things that need to be done and there is never enough time.
As I talked with my wife I realised how I am most stressed when I am doing more than one thing at a time: scrolling through social media while eating with my family, thinking about work while I am playing with my daughter, checking WhatsApp messages while reading a book, and keeping too many tabs open while I am working.
Conversely, I am most rested when I am doing one thing at a time: walking the dog without my phone, meditating on scripture without my phone, talking to my wife without my phone, listening to music without my phone, reading a book without my phone. I think I just had a revelation.
If I am being truly honest, when I turn to my phone I am really searching for God and turning away from him at the same time. I want the rest only he can give but I am turning to something that cannot give it.
Jesus’s invitation to restless, weary and heavy laden multitaskers and phone-addicts is simple, “Come to me” (Matt. 11:28).
His invitation is to those who are “weary” by what they are doing and to those who are “heavy-laden” by the weight of what has happened to them. It is an invitation to restless labourers who need to lay their burdens down and heavy-hearted sufferers who need someone to lift their burdens.
Martha was a multitasker. She complained to the Lord that Mary had left her to serve alone. Isn’t that how multitaskers often feel? “Who else is going to get this done? I have to do this all by myself. No one is going help me. I am all alone.”
But the Lord answered her, as he will every professional multitasker, “Multitasker, Multitasker, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41).
Every multitasker needs to know one thing is necessary, everything else is secondary.
A little quietness, a little waiting, a little stillness, a little time with Jesus goes a long way.
We do not seek rest in Jesus from our labours. We seek rest in Jesus for our labours. He did the work we could never do so we can find the rest we could never earn.
Go to him. He will give you rest.