A Liberating Productivity Insight

Only God is able to multitask. Let me show you why, and how this can set you free.


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The Principle

Here is a principle I want you to seriously consider. It can set you free. You may push back. So, read this carefully and be honest.

Although I may be able to do several things at once, I can only focus on one thing at a time.

Cooking dinner. Talking on the phone. Driving to the store. Listening to an audiobook. Following the stock market. Walking and chewing gum. :)

We can do many things at the same time. But we, as finite humans, cannot truly multitask. That is a capacity reserved for God alone.

This is not a downer principle. Trust me. Facing our limitations is really good news.


Only God is Omni

In a theology class, you may hear the instructor use a Latin word, omni, to describe God. Omni means all.

For example, an omnidirectional microphone is able to pick up sound from any and all directions. An omnivore is an animal that eats anything. A herbivore eats plants. A carnivore eats meat. But an omnivore eats it all.

When we apply this to the nature of God, we discover that he is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), and omnipotent (all-powerful). Because God is omni, he is able to do all things at once—the ultimate Multitasker.

While I may try to play God by multitasking, I am not called to be God. Nor can I be. That is way, way above my pay grade. I am not omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), or omnipotent (all-powerful).


Free to Focus

Grace tells me that I’m free from the pressure to multitask, letting God be onmi, while I focus on the small, one thing he's put before me at the moment. It might be paying bills, enjoying a good book, taking a walk in the woods, listening to my six-year-old, returning email, listening to the birds, or grilling a steak. Add a zillion things to the list. In an honest moment, I will confess that I can do multiple things at once.

But I can only focus on one thing at a time. After all, what could happen to my steak if I started returning emails or scrolling Facebook? It would be a lesson learned. And a steak ruined.

But you may be saying, “You don’t know how much I have to do.” Maybe not. But I know this. If you have more to do than you can get done, and feel as if you need to multitask in order to get it all done, God probably has not called you to do all that you think you need to do.

Could it be that you need to focus? On your marriage. On your kids. On the task at hand with work. On the home repair. I wonder how much of my “multitasking” is just adding distractions to what God has truly called me to, where I give equal weight to my daughter’s question as I do to browsing Instagram.


A Diagnostic Question

This may be a helpful diagnostic question. What has Jesus called me to right now? In this moment? Certainly, he does not call me to be omni, tackling numerous tasks at once. He puts before me things to enjoy and create, and sometimes things that are hard and require extra enabling grace, which requires an even greater focus.

Whatever the one thing is, distractions will compete for my attention. Therefore, it may be equally important to ask, “What has he not called me to do?”

At this intersection, I am faced with a choice. I will entertain the distraction or focus on the one thing so that I can be not omnipresent, but fully present in my limited capacity as a human, giving my whole self to whatever it is.

How liberating it is to focus. I get to turn off the TV. I can close the excess open tabs. I may silence notifications without guilt. So that I can engage with purpose. Ahh.


The Example and Invitation of Jesus

While God is omni, in his incarnation, Jesus became one of us. As a man, he modeled a life of focus. He healed many but not all. He traveled in a particular region, but not everywhere. And he lived with a laser focus—to save sinners from condemnation by being condemned in their place. Jesus was focused on the cross, where he would complete his mission with the words, “It is finished!”

The work was done and he was laid to rest. Then he was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven to reign as the glorified Savior-King. In view of his victory on our behalf, there is no need for us to overwork or multitask.

His invitation to us is simple, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest for your souls.”


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