This is Pastor Tim’s newspaper article which appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, May 17
I am terrible at multitasking. In fact, I am embarrassingly bad at it. This is my big downfall on Sunday mornings at Wayne Street. If all I had to do was the sermon, I could handle that pretty well. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I have to get the computer running, coordinate anything that is happening in the service, answer everyone’s questions, and then help all the people who want to take care of something while they are at church so they don’t have to come back during the week.
One task, I do pretty well. 2-4 tasks and I start to struggle. 5+ tasks and four of them are going to fail. I used to hate this about myself, and I wished I could get better at doing multiple things. However, I simply am not a multi-tasker, and at my age, it is highly unlikely that I will suddenly and spontaneously develop the gift of multitasking.
What I have decided to do the past few years is embrace the weakness. I know that I cannot do more than one thing at a time, and for me to focus on one thing means that I will neglect a whole lot of others. And in a job like mine where in 25 years of doing this, I have never done the same thing two days in a row, I need to make the most of what I am given. In order to do this, I have done two things for myself to help me with this multitasking problem. I offer them to you as a way to help any of you who may be as terrible at multitasking as I am.
The first thing I have learned is to do what I can to maximize my focus. I have found that my lack of multitasking can be an actual superpower. I can focus on something so intently that I can actually use 100% of my abilities on one task. Knowing that, I do all I can to maximize that ability. One of the most scatterbrain moments of my week are worship services on Sunday morning. I already know that my Sunday mornings are chaos. That is why I focus on what I know is going to happen during the week. I have the sermon written out word for word so that I don’t need to think about it. I use that ability to focus to write it out and practice it so that on Sunday morning, I am not grasping at straws. On Sunday morning, I don’t have to give any thought to it, which allows me to focus on the people rather than the sermon. The weird thing about me is that if you ask me 5 minutes before church what the sermon is about, I will have to pause a moment and think because I am not focusing on that right then. That is the miracle of focus. The sermon has a ton of focus invested on it, but none of that focus is on Sunday. It happens in the days and weeks prior to that Sunday.
The second lesson that I will share with you is that when I bought my house 4 years ago, the very first thing I did was I hung a high end, magnetic white board in my kitchen. Every week, I fill that board out with three categories. On the left side of the board is all of the stuff I need to get accomplished in the office. I need to write a sermon, an article for the paper, and various other tasks. Some are weekly tasks but others are occasional things I need to get done. On the top right side of the board, I fill out everything I need to do not in the office. Things like Rotary meetings or trips to the bank. This week, I have a haircut on there as well. Anything I need to do not in the office. Then on the bottom right side of the board, I list out all of the people I need to make contact with for any reason. People who are in the hospital or going to be, or people I need to touch base with for any reason. Once I get the board filled out and revised, before I leave my house on Monday morning, I take a picture of the board and load it on my computer. That way, when I complete a task, I can move on to the next task. As I complete things, I erase them, which is strangely gratifying.
What these two strategies do is instead of being frustrated with myself because I can’t do more than one thing at a time, it helps me use this God given ability to focus on a single task and accomplish that task to the best of my ability.
Through a lot of prayer, trial and error, personal frustration and occasional triumph, I have managed to see my ability to focus as a strength rather than the horrible liability it had been for years.
It very well may be that many of the weaknesses we see in ourselves may actually be misused or misapplied strengths. If you have something about yourself that you find frustrating, you might want to examine what you are dealing with and see if what you have is not an actual weakness but really a strength you are just not maximizing.