I have a favorite illustration in Dr. Seuss’ book ‘The Cat In The Hat’. The cat is balanced on one foot atop a ball. In his hands and with his tail he holds many things. The cat held books, a fish bowl, an umbrella, a rake, a toy boat, a teacup, and a glass of milk, a fan and a cake. The proud cat bears an expression that seems to say, “Look at me, look at me! Am I not amazing?”
It is very impressive until the cat falls down surrounded by all the failed activities. The cat reminds me of myself if I try to balance too many priorities. I’m not very good at multi-tasking.
Multi-taskers are people who have the ability to manage several activities simultaneously. With relative ease they can carry on a conversation, balance a budget sheet, listen to music and bake a cake—all at the same time!
I admire multi-taskers for their powers of motor dexterity and to get the job done. However, I am not one of them.
I sing the praises of uni-tasking. I am able to concentrate on a singular task for extended periods of time. Sometimes I can balance one or two more activities, but one task always dominates and takes my attention.
On my way to a retreat Friday I took the wrong exit off of Highway 403. My uni-task was to drive the car. My secondary task was to visit with my friend Kevin Saunders. Unfortunately I can only manage small talk when driving.
We were talking about Bruce Springsteen’s album ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’. I was talking about the legal entanglements with his manager after ‘Born In The USA’. There was a significant time gap until the next album and that conflict shaped Bruce’s career at the time. And then, I was driving down a new road I had never been on. Without realizing, I had taken a ramp thinking I was getting close to my destination.
I am a confirmed uni-tasker. Do not get me talking while I drive. I may break concentration and then we will be lost.
This seriously affects my work style here at the church and at home. I have to usually move away from my desk if I’m meeting with someone at the office. Household handyman jobs are fine as long as I’m alone.
More than once I have become agitated by multiple demands during a task.
If I feel backlogged with tasks, I can start to pity myself. I have to remind myself that the task list may be secondary to the presenting needs of others.
What am I to do with myself when I feel overwhelmed by my tasks? I’m choosing to give myself to good tasks and yet, aggravated by impatience.