Productivity: The Cost Of Multitasking To Your Ministry


If you are like me, you may pride yourself on how many tasks you can manage or how many plates you can spin at once without letting one crash. Well, I have learned that is nothing to be proud of.

More and more research exists to support the notion that the more attention we give to a wide array of items, the less focused we are and the less information we retain. We are thus more likely to make mistakes and miss important facts when we try to multitask. We are no longer present to our tasks or to others. A recent study even showed that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are.

Some of you may be saying what does this have to do with the church, leadership, or spiritual issues? I will argue that it has everything to do with all three.

We are called to give the best hours of our day to serve those God has entrusted within our circle of influence.  The Bible calls us to “give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” Jesus was the ultimate example of this for us.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. - 1 Corinthians 15:58

By this time in reading this blog post, I expect you are already starting to think about what you have to do next. Might I suggest you STOP and FOCUS your attention for the next three minutes on ways you can improve your productivity, focus, and attention in an effort to improve your ministry.

1) Set Shifting

2012 article from the Harvard Medical School sites a new book from Harvard Health Publications titled Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life. The authors discuss the pitfalls of multitasking and “brain science.” One of their key strategies for improving in this area is called set shifting. They suggest that this activity not only improves brain fitness and agility but also creativity.

Here are the key facts about set shifting:
• Focus only on the task at hand and give your full attention to it
• When you complete a task, shift your attention completely to the next task

2) Manage Interruptions

Managing multiple inputs all day long is taking its toll on the American worker and the US economy. Studies show that productivity decreases as interruptions increase in the workday.

Have you ever been sitting in your office with five documents open on your computer, jumping from one to the other, and then all of the sudden your phone rings?  How long does it take you to recover from that phone call interruption to get back into the zone you were just in before? Research from the University of California at Irvine reports it takes on average 25 minutes.

In 2007, the New York Times reported that multitasking is costing the US economy $650 billion in lost productivity. Think twice next time you respond to that text or decide to check your Facebook page at work.

3) Be Proactive

Limit your access to distractions while you need to be the most creative and productive.

• Turn off the phone

• Close down social media applications

• Set a time limit to a certain task and follow it

• Track your time during the work hours to see where your lost time may be going. Consider an application like to help you.

• Have your assistant, staff, or spouse hold you accountable if you have trouble with the discipline of focus and attention

• Take advantage of productivity tools on the web like:

4) Listen & Be Present

This is probably the most important take away from this post. If you made it this far,  way to go! This is the WWJD of productivity. In his 33 years of ministry on earth, Jesus valued relationships over tasks. This can be seen over and over again in the four gospels. Jesus took the time to listen and be present with those he knew and loved as well as those he met for the first time. His ministry was one of presence and not of task.

Remember that our lives are measured by those we touch through the relationships we have and not by how many plates we can spin at once, how many contacts we have in our address book, or the amount of money we can generate. May we learn to be present and attentive in our daily tasks and more importantly with those we love and care for.

What are your best strategies for increasing productivity and minimizing the negative effects of multitasking?