This week, my colleagues and I are doing what might be called extreme multi-tasking. We are getting ready to bring you the New York Catholic Bible Summit this coming Saturday. Among other things, that means filling close to 500 souvenir bags with relevant materials.
We also are packing up to move our offices to a new floor in the Catholic Center. The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office has been at its present site for at least 30 years. Can you imagine how much we have accumulated, how much has to be discarded, and how much has to be packed? Of course, the day-to-day ministry of our office continues at the same time. I mention this in case somebody at the Bible Summit opens a souvenir bag and finds a shoe or an old office directory.
Our times demand multi-tasking. Should they? Will the world come to an end if we don’t drop what we are doing and respond instantly to the beeps from our mobile devices? It’s hard to resist at work, at home or in transit (hopefully not the car) because others expect instant answers.
However, multi-tasking is not what it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t make us more proficient. In fact, it slows us. The time it takes for us to switch ourselves mentally and physically from one to task to another is time lost. Multi-tasking doesn’t do wonders for our concentration either. And it takes a toll on our relationships. Read at this article from Santa Clara University, which is “the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley.” The author suggests as an antidote a 20-minute rule. Concentrate on one task for 20 minutes without interruption.
Now it may not be possible entirely to eliminate multi-tasking at work. However, there are other possibilities. These include prayer. Daily Mass is a perfect way to follow the 20-minute rule. Take your Bible (not the digital version) to a place away from your desk and meditate on one phrase or short passage. Or go out at lunchtime to some nearby green space, look around you, and then read this wonderful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ. I promise you that any of these activities will provide a wonderful antidote to multi-tasking and it will enrich your faith, too. Just remember to switch off the device.