I like to organize my thoughts through a mind map. So, a few days before the New Year began, I placed a bubble in the middle of my journal page and wrote, “My New Year’s Intentions for 2013.” And then I began to add bubbles around it and a cluster of thoughts related to those bubbles. As I scanned the memory of my year similar to the daily examen, I wrote down ideas of what might become an intention to live into this coming year. I also saw a theme arise. Many of my bubbles had to do with balance–that elusive ideal I’ve often striven for in the past. Some bubbles included things like more consistent Sabbath keeping, improved self-care and planning margin–all things that have to do with balancing work with rest and play.
But the obvious next question was “How?” How do I create balance or manage all the disparate parts of my life in a way that helps me have some margin. As I considered the question, something came to mind that seems counter-intuitive to what you might expect to be an answer. It was the thought that I need to become a single-tasker. I need to learn how to focus on one thing at a time. It’s trying to do too many things at once that cause me to feel overwhelmed and out-of-balance.
Jesus had some things to say about single-tasking in Luke 10:38-42, the often quoted story of Mary and Martha. Jesus was in their home one day along with a number of his disciples. He was teaching them when Martha, busy in the kitchen, interrupted him with a clearly annoyed tone in her voice. She asked him to tell her sister, Mary, to get up from her place sitting at his feet and come help get lunch on the table. Jesus responded with some pointed words. “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41, 42).
I’ve heard a lot of interpretations of this story, as you might have, but one application worth considering is Jesus’ suggestion that “there is only one thing worth being concerned about” at a time and if you discover that, it won’t be taken away from you. Mary was embodying the posture of a person who was aware of what was most important in that moment and she stay focused on it. She was a single-tasker. Martha, on the other hand, was a multi-tasker; she was worried about many things–a habit that creates the feeling that life is out-of-balance and overwhelming.
So, over the next few weeks, I want to think more deeply about what it means to be a single-tasker–to take Jesus’ advice and be concerned about one thing at a time. I hope it will lead to a little more balance and peace of mind. How does that sound to you? Please join me in this New Year 2013 as I write on my blog about “Declarations of a Single-tasker.”
Would you consider yourself a “single-tasker”? What has the journey been like for you?
Beth Booram has been a lifelong vocational minister in parachurch and local church settings, both mainline and nondenominational. She is an author, spiritual director and healing prayer practitioner, as well as a congregational consultant. She speaks around the country at conferences and retreats on topics related to spiritual formation and Christian leadership. Beth understands the issues that confound many people today and offers a message that is authentic and original; absent of clichés and formulas, while full of wisdom and insight. She is a disarming communicator who draws from a deep reservoir of compassion through her own healing journey and profound encounter with Christ. Beth's presentations are highly creative, often utilizing artistic elements, contemplative exercises, and engaging interaction. Her next book, Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God will be released in February with InterVarsity Press. Beth has also written The Wide Open Spaces of God (Abingdon Press, 2007) and Picturing the Face of Jesus (Abingdon Press/April, 2009).