Move over multitasking; singletasking finally wins out

My sweet friend was more gracious than I deserved. She shrugged it off and said not to worry about it.

I had basically insulted her in a group message on Facebook; how could I not worry about it? It wasn’t intentional and I certainly didn’t mean it. I was trying to do too many things at the same time, and thus a reply to a message came out wrong.

The same thing happened during an in-person meeting recently. I was attempting to deal with a major organizational situation while rushing through the lunch meeting and making needed announcements. My friend and co-worker asked a simple question and the phrasing of my answer came out all wrong. It wasn’t what I meant at all, and my dear friend assured me she knew what I had intended to say. But I was mortified that my words could have been extremely hurtful.

And there was the time I misread an email, leading me in the wrong direction with an assignment. It cost myself and others many hours of unnecessary work all because I didn’t read the information carefully.

Again a mistake that happened while multitasking — doing the thing that I have taken such pride in since I was a teenager. I’ve always been able to handle multiple tasks at the same time, juggling lots of activities and making consistent progress on all of them.

In high school, I cleaned my room while talking on the phone. In college, I studied while watching friends play baseball. While on the missions field, I had friends help me with work projects so we could have “hang out” time without me having to lose momentum on the projects. And when a guy asked me out on a date, sometimes I would invite everyone else along who had mentioned doing something fun that particular week. That way I could spend time with everyone but do it all at the same time (true story that my husband of nearly 17 years loves to tell on me — it happened on our first date).

Today I can answer email on my computer while talking to someone on my landline and texting someone else on my cellphone. That’s right, I can carry on three conversations at the same time. Of course, you see where it has gotten me a few times!

I have been pretty creative with multitasking through the years, but I’m not sure that has always been a good thing. A recent conversation with my family ended with them all agreeing that I am not always fully present while sitting in front of them. They mentioned how I check my phone constantly for emails and texts. I may attend my nephews’ birthday parties and basketball games, but am I putting my full attention on them and the day’s activities or am I distracted by other things I’m working on at the same time?

My sister-in-law, Amanda, mentioned a new trend she likes where a group of friends or family members meeting for dinner all put their phones in the middle of the table when they arrive at the restaurant. The deal is that no one is to touch their phone during the outing. The first person to give in and check his or her phone has to pay for everyone’s dinner.

Accountability and consequences for breaking the rule — I like it. It is probably something I need.

Visualize an entertainer on stage spinning plates on top of poles attempting to keep them balanced. He adds another, then another, then another. He always seems to stop adding plates at some point recognizing his limit. We all clap in affirmation. Impressive indeed.

But when I think about it in more detail, I realize the fact that he knows his limits is what allows him to keep the plates spinning. I don’t always know my limits and end up adding one plate too many. You can probably hear the plates shattering now.

I also realized that even though the entertainer manages to keep the plates spinning, he can never take his eyes off the plates nor stop tending to them. If he turns his attention anywhere else … crash.

Instead of attempting to spin all the plates at once, it is better to take one plate out at a time, do whatever needs to be done, put it back in a safe place and pull out another plate and continue on in this pattern. Yes I know. All the males out there are rolling their eyes and thinking, “Well, duh! We’ve always known this. What took you so long to figure it out?”

And I guess in general men do have more of a handle on this than many women.

But at the same time I’m not describing being one-track minded to the point where you have to complete the entire project in front of you before you can even begin to think of another project or assignment. There does have to be an ability to ebb and flow between projects, assignments, relationships, work, home, church, etc.

Instead of multitasking — where we work on several tasks at the same time — we should manage our tasks — where we organize our tasks, prioritize them appropriately and focus on the one at hand at the moment — while also making the best use of all of our time.

My editor, Bob Terry, describes it as redeeming the time. If we are organized and prepare appropriately, then we are always ready to work on what’s next and avoid wasting any segments of time.

I may always face the temptation to return to multitasking when life gets overwhelming, but the newfound freedom I’ve found in not multitasking is certainly addictive.

Because I can actually look away from the spinning plates now, I can see the big picture much more clearly (Matt. 22:37–40). The clarity forces me to think carefully before I agree to take on a new project (Col. 3:23). I can better judge the time I have and actually see the boundaries.

And think about the change a newfound ability to focus will have on my spiritual disciplines (Ps. 46:10). God is teaching me so much. I’m excited to discover what’s next.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Obsessed with efficiency, finished with multitasking and striving to always redeem the time

That’s basically it in a nutshell — that’s me. And I need your help to figure it out.

Stressed, clock, time, too much to do

Too much to do, not enough hours

How would you advise me in my attempt to trade multitasking for singletasking (read about it here)?

What are some tips for being efficient in our everyday lives as well as when we are supposed to be resting, relaxing and/or unplugging from the routine?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

 

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Preparing to be prepared

being preparedWhen his truck’s gas tank nears half full, my father-in-law can’t rest until he finds a gas station to fill the tank again. He likes a full tank of gas.

I’ll admit I’ve teased him about this obsession for years — even as I’ve prayed myself to a gas station many times while driving on fumes.

He likes to be prepared and knows what it is like to be on alert for a mandatory hurricane evacuation out of South Florida. A full tank of gas can change everything for the better in the midst of trying to flee north on I-95 with thousands of other cars.

I’m guessing that most Alabamians and north Georgia residents have a different perspective about a full tank of gas and other emergency supplies since the Jan. 28 weather catastrophe. I know I do.

It seems that everywhere I go, someone is talking about how he or she has put together an emergency kit for the car, is now leaving extra toiletries and clothes at the office or has worked out a new work-from-home plan when bad weather is predicted.

It is smart to learn from difficult experiences and develop plans for similar issues that might happen in the future. We now have firsthand experience of what is needed to be prepared, at least to some degree, and we certainly should not be taken off guard again.

But I wonder how long the memory will last and how prepared we will stay.

Staying up-to-date

Will our emergency kits be up-to-date a year from now? How about two years from now, especially if we don’t have to use the kits in the next two years?

Think about your first-aid kit or other emergency kit you once put together. Do you know where it is? Have you replenished its supplies lately? Are there fresh batteries in it? Will the kit work if there is a true emergency?

And while this year’s extreme level of winter weather for Alabama has given us plenty of time to think about being prepared, we also can plan to freshen up our kits annually around this time.

After all, February is now Disaster Preparedness Month for Alabama Baptists. It not only is a great time to review our personal emergency plans, but it also is a good time for churches to host activities for church members and the community related to the theme.

Disaster Relief funds

Church leaders might also use the annual observance as a time to review their disaster plans and appoint a few members of the congregation to serve as point people for any disaster-related situation that might occur.

Two good websites about this topic are www.sbdr.org and ready.gov.

Be sure to check out the annual Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) offering resources at the sbdr.org site as well.

A $1 offering from every Alabama Baptist church member once a year would allow DR officials to maintain and upgrade necessary equipment in an ongoing fashion and allow them to respond immediately to a disaster rather than having to wait for funds to come in after a situation arises.

It also is a good time to consider signing up as a disaster relief volunteer. There are several ways you can serve, and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions provides training opportunities throughout the state. The sbdr.org website is the best place to start. You also can call 1-800-264-1225 and ask for Mel Johnson. Be sure to tell him I suggested you call. I need all the brownie points I can get!

No matter what is right for you, your family and your church, at least think through a few aspects of being prepared for the “what ifs.” It will relieve a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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A sincere nod or strictly perseverance?

The more I talked the more his eyes glazed. Why I continued to spill out the ridiculous amount of information, I do not know. After all, he wasn’t retaining any of it, so I was basically wasting my time and his.

And while I could be describing almost any lengthy conversation I have with my sweet hubby, this particular conversation was with a ministry peer.

I usually have decent observation skills and can read my surroundings well. Knowing the appropriate way and time to share information, delve into a lengthy discussion or ask someone to join a spontaneous brainstorming session will certainly influence the results, or at the very least the efficiency of the process.

These are things I know well and work hard to always assess. I also know what it feels like to be on the other side.

You get caught by someone unexpectedly and it’s a day when you are already overwhelmed, overworked and pretty much exhausted. The other person isn’t doing anything wrong and may even be sharing positive news, but by not being aware of your inability to absorb what is being dumped on you, he or she sends you into a mental battle of perseverance versus creative escape.

You stand there nodding, saying things like “Uh huh” and “of course.” You determine to basically agree to all that is being outlined before you because that will take less time than debating or discussing the details. You convince yourself that the person will wrap up sooner if you don’t contribute to the conversation.

At least those are thoughts that go through my mind in those situations. Does that ever happen to you? (I hope it isn’t happening right now as you read this column!)

Anyway I would venture to guess that most of us have been on both sides of this situation, and I’m curious as to why we keep doing it to each other.

In my recent experience, I knew exactly what was happening, but I also convinced myself that I had to transfer the information to the other person at that moment.

Why did it have to be right then? Not because there was a vital deadline but because I needed to move something out of my brain and off my to-do list. I had planned to check that off my list and chose not to adapt to the situation.

How much of what we do every day is basically taking information of some type from one person and handing it to another person? Sometimes I think we live in an endless tangled web of assembly lines. Instead of taking the item from the person on the left and handing it to the person on the right, we are moving in and out of all the lines handing things to this person and that person — making the rhythm inefficient and chaotic.

In some ways, the spontaneity and creativity is exciting and fresh. In other ways, the lack of order is tiring and unproductive.

And so in this transfer of information from my brain to yours, I merely want to note a few reminders for myself while sharing with you another life lesson I’m trying to learn:

•Be aware of the other person’s schedule, pressures and energy level.

•Give the gift of “just the facts” and let the other person ask for the details he or she needs.

•Be willing to put any information that can wait on hold if the timing or situation seems wrong.

•Try to solve issues or problems (within the appropriate boundaries, of course) before automatically handing the problem to someone else.

•Be positive and encouraging (as long as it is real and not a fake attempt).

•Surprise a family member, friend, co-worker or fellow church worker by taking something off his or her plate.

— Jennifer Davis Rash

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Clearing the clutter starts with me

By Jennifer Davis Rash

It’s that time of year again — time to start fresh, set new goals, attempt to improve.

Clutter

Could this be the best year yet? Or at least could I be the best me yet?

I’m sure going to give it a shot, starting with answering these questions adapted from www.ampersandphotoblog.com:

•What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

•What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your relationships this year?

•In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

•What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

•For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

•What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

•What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

•What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

Working with these questions related to our relationship with God and others should help keep our focus properly aligned. It is certainly a different approach from setting goals such as adapting a proper eating plan, exercising more and kicking bad habits. Those are good goals to have and most of us should still try to achieve them, but think about the true joy we could experience and impact we might have by primarily focusing on our relationship with God and others. What if we really could take all of our spiritual disciplines to new levels?

What is the spiritual discipline I want to make the most progress in this year? Prayer.

What am I going to do about it? Practice it more, read about it more and seek God’s direction through His Word.

I’m a doer naturally. When I see a need, I take care of it — whether it’s my responsibility or not. I enjoy helping others and serving in areas that are sometimes neglected.

I’m also a problem-solver. If something needs taken care of, then I’m your gal. I rarely hesitate. I simply take care of it.

Could be annoying

I’m also full of ideas — to an annoying level sometimes. Inviting me to a brainstorming session will guarantee lots of ideas floating around, but it also may mean that I’ll just go ahead and solve the problem while we are sitting there, thus leaving no reason to review the list of ideas.

Sure this helps account for my need for efficiency and means I am a really hard worker, but as one of my mentors frequently reminds me: “strength overdone becomes weakness.”

Spending time in prayer and seeking God’s direction about the issue before me is where I need to improve. It’s too easy for me to make the decision quickly and go with it.

One particular area in front of me is how I can be a better church member and help our church leaders make some important decisions that lie ahead of us.

Sharing, serving

Some of the moves that need to be made are obvious, but others are not.

How can we as a church family grow and develop in the best way to help our members deepen their relationships with Christ as well as advance the gospel through praying, giving and going?

How can we serve and offer areas of service without overwhelming our members, whose lives are already packed with activities at all levels?

Is it possible to actually break the 80–20 rule that we so easily accept — 20 percent of the people doing 80 percent of the work? And does that apply to giving and going as well? What about praying?

What if every person who walked in the front door of the church came to truly worship God and grow as an individual believer? What if the appearance on Sunday morning wasn’t because of a cultural obligation or to be seen or for purely social reasons?

What if we all emptied ourselves and allowed God to fill us? What if we listened to His guidance and followed in obedience? How amazing would our church services be, and how amazing would our service to the world outside the church be?

And while the go-getter in me wants to push the masses to embrace the same vision, I realize I must start with a time of prayer.

I have to clear the clutter from my own heart and mind and settle all of this within myself before I can ask others to consider a similar path.

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What are you reading?

By Jennifer Davis Rash

My mother-in-law is an avid reader. That’s one of the things I love about her. She will tackle a new book with fervor and be wrapping up the final chapter within days, sometimes hours if everything lines up just right.

I love to read also, but I can’t seem to find the same discipline she does to complete a book quickly. It takes me much longer to make my way to the end, and I always seem to have seven or eight books in progress at the same time. Of course, reading several at a Reading cornertime rather than one may be part of the reason it takes me so long to finish them!

And while reading for pleasure seems like a luxury I rarely can afford to take, I try to remind myself of the importance it plays throughout our lives.

Studies have proven that babies who are read to learn and develop at faster rates than those who are not. Children who are encouraged to practice reading and develop disciplined reading habits do better in school and expand their social skills more quickly. Teenagers and young adults continue to learn and mature with a reading habit that grows with them.

The reality is that we can continue learning, growing and maturing by reading — no matter our age. Our awareness of the world and its issues is broadened, our knowledge basis is expanded and our ability to think reasonably is enhanced. And for those of us seeking to grow more and more like Christ, our faith is increased as we read and study His Word.

Technology today even allows those with visual disabilities to “read.”

One of the things I love about reading is the discovery process. Whether I’m reading specifically to gather new information or for escape — and no matter if the book or article is amazing or lacking — I always learn something.

Of course, I’m that person who counts any experience a success, even if it is the most boring of situations, as long as I walk away with one nugget of new information.

Another thing I love about reading is where it leads me. Almost every writer will point you to a wealth of new reading material if you pay attention. As I read other writers’ works, I make note of the books, articles, blogs, etc., that he or she references. And then I overwhelm myself trying to read them all!

Readers of The Alabama Baptist newspaper likely notice a similar experience as they flip through each issue. The “extras” are shared in many of the articles for those wanting more than what we can squeeze into our limited space. Readers also may have noticed we are expanding our media reviews section from a monthly feature to a weekly emphasis. 

As part of the expanded effort, we will be asking you about the books you are currently reading. From the submissions, we will select a few each month to publish in an upcoming issue.

What new book are you reading right now? Do you recommend it and why? Share your name, church home, city and state along with a brief review of the book you are reading. Email to news@thealabamabaptist.org and put “What I’m reading” in the subject line.

Try some of the books that will be recommended and let us know if you agree.

If you have written a new book, then be sure to mail a copy to our book reviewer Martine Bates Sharp at P.O. Box 1504, Hartselle, AL 35640, to be considered for an official review.

And, as always, thanks for reading my column. I appreciate you and the feedback you provide — even if the most popular request is that I change the name to “Ir-Rashional Thoughts.” :)

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Smashed by one who was ‘smashed’

By Jennifer Davis Rash

The quiet older gentleman wasn’t thrilled about driving me up and down the rows of smashed vehicles, but he did it.

“I’m telling you, they picked up your car yesterday,” he kept saying. “It’s not here.”

But the “they” — my insurance company — assured me the car was still in the impound lot in north Birmingham. I had actually been looking for it all day. No one seemed to know where my car was.Jen's car

As we drove around, I was shocked at how many wrecked cars were stored there as well as several cars that weren’t wrecked. The gentleman explained that the red suburban I pointed out was “in jail.”

The owner had outstanding traffic tickets and his vehicle will be impounded until he pays up, the gentleman said. “That’s why I say it’s in jail.”

We turned another corner and I saw my Hyundai Sonata parked right in the middle of the only large puddle of muddy water in the lot. The gentleman shook his head. He couldn’t believe it was really there. We soon figured out the mystery behind the confusion over my car’s location, but before we could celebrate my new friend scowled again.

Good Samaritans

He was attempting to build a bridge to my car to remove the items I came to retrieve and ended up soaking his tan non-waterproof work boots. He drew the line at attempting to get my tag off the trunk, which now permanently sits perched straight up like a disfigured hatchback rear door wannabe.

And while he had had a long day, the gentleman encouraged me amid the inconveniences that come with a car accident. He likes to keep the customers happy and that isn’t always easy, he said. “They aren’t always happy when they come to see me.”

And he is probably right. The back and forth that comes when several businesses are involved in any type of transaction can be frustrating. There have certainly been unorganized moments as I’ve worked through the aftermath of my car accident, but in almost every situation the person working with me has been extremely nice and willing to help. Almost, that is. I was disappointed in the way a few people acted.

But most have gone above and beyond and definitely made up for the few who missed out on an opportunity to be nice.

Even at the scene of the accident, complete strangers stopped to help me after a drunk driver caused chaos on I-59 North and left two of us spinning out of control. They helped me get out of the car and guided me to safety.

My friend, Haley, saw the accident and came back to stay with me — for almost four hours. My family, friends, co-workers, church family and more have reached out to me. The result could have been so much worse, but I walked away and am able to tell you about it.

So many others don’t get that chance, and to think that this happened during the recent Red Ribbon Week — the annual national alcohol and drug prevention campaign.

I’m not sure how to convince people not to drink and drive, but if you know someone tempted to give it a try, then please help them make a more responsible decision. 

And we should all continue to support organizations working to make a difference through education and legislation. One such group — Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) — is being honored today in Baptist circles.

Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 — ALCAP Sunday — http://www.alcap.com

 

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