Multitasking Kills Leadership (Via Duke Divinity Call & Response)

In our intricately connected social world, ministry often attempts to adapt and share the good news in new, effective ways.  In our time, this might mean taking on new media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in addition to the emails, phone calls, meetings, coffee discussions, newsletter articles, and lunch conversations.  Some pastors, like myself, are prone to mutli-tasking, hoping to accomplish much in a short period of time by taking care of several activities at once.  The new media all around us accents this, promoting attention spans that are 140 characters or less.

Even now, as a house husband, I check my email, update Facebook, check out a Twitter link, parouse the New York Times online, start the laundry, load the dishwasher and try to fix lunch.  I’m sure it would be quite humorous to retrace my steps, frantically, energetically determined to complete it all.

As the following blog suggests, while this posture may serve a kind of accomplishment, it can stifle nourishment.  Without adequate time to step back, reflect, and, yes, pray; pastoral ministry will surely wither under the heated grind of numerous, mutli-tasked activities.   However good and promising they may be, taking on infinite ministry tasks can breed burnout and deplete our spirits.  As Paul continuously reminds us, we are saved by grace through faith and empowered by God’s Spirit, not saved by our work and empowered by the buzz of our accomplishments–even ministry accomplishments!  No completed newsletter article or popular blog post will give the energy or meaning necessary to rest peacefully in ourselves and crucial to serving others.

I’ve come to know this too keenly.  I often find myself hungry and aggravated, on edge about the simplest matters.  All my facebooking, twittering, reading, laundering, washing, and various other tasks ended up distracting me from eating.  I missed lunch.

As a pastor, I will need to feast on prayer, making time to eat daily.  Mutli-tasking may be required at times, but it cannot occlude the need for attuned, focused, uni-tasked attention through prayer.  With that nourishment, I trust I’ll be better able to discern the best way to go about all the various responsibilities and demands of ministry.  And I suspect my seemingly intractable need for accomplishment will give way to the saving assurance of God’s grace.

Duke Divinity Call & Response Blog | Faith & Leadership | Scott Benhase: Multitasking kills leadership.


4 thoughts on “Multitasking Kills Leadership (Via Duke Divinity Call & Response)

  1. I loved the first 140 characters of this post! I hope the rest was good!

    In all seriousness (though what follows might not sound serious), this reminded me of my days playing Final Fantasy XI Online. The game designers actually use neuroscience principles of getting pleasure centers to fire when certain rewards are obtained. Over time, the game can spread those further and further because you’re more invested. One way to manage this as a player — a way to maintain your “high” — is to take on diverse tasks, so you’re always completing something.

    Thus, rather than explore an exotic landscape, I’d ride against a drab rock wall because it shaved a few seconds off my time through that particular zone. I’d bring along crafting materials to try to “skill up” my woodworking as I waited at the gates of a castle for others, rather than use the game’s chat function (and, you know, social potential) to talk with the other players.

    It’s an interesting trap we can get in — doing for the sake of doing. I wonder what sets us up for this in the first place?

  2. Ha! Thanks Ben! I hope you have some time to read the other characters of the post while watching Star Trek and playing Final Fantasy 😉

    You bring up a great point about various media and designers recognizing our somewhat “programmed” proclivity to multitask and achieve. Maybe there is a rich theological opening here to talk about sin and the forces at work on us which distract us from God’s presence in and with people, including proper attention to ourselves.

  3. It’s interesting — I’ve just finished “Theological Origins of Modernity,” and towards the end Gillespie gets to talking quite a bit about the Hobbesian anthropology, which basically declares that we are all merely programmed and in motion predetermined by the creation of the world with the forces operating within it.

    Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about a trend that seems to be post-Freudian in one way or another, following after Dr. Freud’s observation that a lot of behavior can be BOTH irrational AND motivated. This new trend offers that we should look at ways to do “behavior hacking,” which seems to involve getting into those motivators, figuring out their discrete causes, and trying to alter things in specific ways to change bigger behavior.

    I haven’t done much research yet, but a couple finds seem to be:

    I’ve been meaning to write my own post on much of this . . . grr!

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