“Daddy. Listen to me.”
“I am listening to you.”
“No, you’re not. You’re looking at your phone.”
“But I’m listening. I can do both, you know.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Yes, I can.”
I hadn’t lifted my eyes once during this exchange. I felt two hands on my face, pulling my head upright. There was Emma. Her little hands mushing my cheeks together.
“Daddy! Focus! I’m talking to you!”
Emma is right. It’s all about focus.
Our everyday technology is mind blowing. If you would have told my Grandmother that the day would come when she could carry the entire world in her purse, she would have thought you’d been rolling in the catnip a little too long. Yet when we carry a smart phone we carry the world in our pocket.
Wonder if it’s raining in Romania? Click click. Nope. 72 and sunny.
Want the news from Iraq? Click click. Two bombs exploded in Bagdad last night.
Did your nephew Nick in New Hampshire win his baseball game? Click click. Yep. 6-2.
Need to settle a bet as to who sang “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”? Click click. I told you it was Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. Now buy me lunch.
We hear the phrase all the time. Multi-tasking. The idea that we can do multiple jobs or projects at once. We like to think we can. But we can’t. At least not in the way we think it works.
The laptop computer I’m typing on has 8 gigabytes of RAM. Random Access Memory. Simply put, the more RAM the more programs you can have open and functioning at the same time. I’m writing a column. Yet in the background my documents folder, I-Tunes, a calculator, my internet browser, Facebook, LinkedIn, and an Excel spreadsheet are all open and running. That’s a lot. But my RAM isn’t really challenged at the moment. I could open up a few more programs without losing speed.
It gives me the feeling that I’m very busy. And if I’m very busy then I must be doing important things.
And maybe I am.
But I’m not doing them all at the same time.
I could see fifteen icons at the bottom of the screen. Programs open and running. But I can only focus on one at a time.
I’m setting up formulas in a spreadsheet. I-Tunes is playing in the background. My brain grabs onto the second verse of a Tony Bennett tune like a cable car in San Francisco and rides off into the chorus. I’m not doing math anymore. I’m lost on Memory Lane, remembering something wonderful. My eyes are staring at the cells and rows and columns. But I have to wait till my brain jumps off at the next stop before I’m focused again on Excel.
You and I can have many projects in front of us at the same time. But we don’t multi-task. Our brains just “toggle” back and forth between tasks very quickly, giving the appearance that we are doing two things at once. Women think they multi-task better than men. They don’t. Because true multi-tasking is a myth. Their brains just “toggle” back and forth faster than do our male brains. A physiological fact that we guys have to concede.
Physiology aside, life should not be about how many tasks we can do at once. God wants us to focus on the moment. More importantly, He wants us to focus on the people in those moments. That we can click click and know the news in France doesn’t mean much if we’re too busy to know our next door neighbor is hurting over a wayward child. If in ten minutes on Facebook we can get life glimpses of 23 far away friends but can’t lift our head to focus on what our kids are saying, then we’re missing it.
Technology is wonderful. As long as we don’t lose our focus.
Because if we lose our focus, we’re not multi-tasking.
Now go find someone and mush their cheeks together. Look them in the eyes and tell them you love them.
Or that you were right about Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Then go do lunch.
And leave your smart phones in the car.
Todd A. Thompson – August 9, 2013