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“To do two things at once is to do neither.”  Those words were not written by a distracted, multi-tasking millennial.  They were written by Publilius Syrus, a Latin writer born in 85BC. 

If that statement was relevant in 85BC, it is a thousand times more relevant in 2017.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been talking about the ways that technology impacts us.  Last week I shared how it impacts our ability to pay attention to ourselves and to God.

But our constant connection to our techno-gadgets also impacts our ability to work effectively.

Recent studies of office workers revealed that they constantly stop what they’re doing to read and respond to incoming e-mails.  It is not unusual for them to glance at their in-box 30-40 times an hour.  

There are multiple studies that have proven multi-tasking actually makes us less productive.

In 2009, Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University did a research project on the issue of multi-tasking.  They took 262 students and gave them a questionnaire to determine how often they multi-tasked.  They then divided them into 2 groups, low multi-taskers and high multi-taskers.  The assumption was that the high multi-taskers would perform better and be more productive. They were wrong.  Nass’s concluded “It turns out that high multi-taskers are suckers for irrelevancy.”

Steve Uzzell says it even more colorfully.  “Multi-tasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

Always being plugged in not only affects your work, but it also has huge impact on your relationships.  One of the things that we as pastors ought to do the very best is to be present with people.  But our gadgets sometimes get in the way of truly being “with” people.

Don’t be distracted from the person who is there by the person who isn’t there.

When you read the gospels, Jesus never seems to be distracted, pre-occupied, or checked out when he is with someone.

In many respects, technology has dehumanized our interaction and communication with each other. People hide behind a screen and now say things through an e-mail or text they would never say in person.  Every pastor has experienced this.

One of my cardinal rules for teams is this: Never deliver bad news using one of your electronic devices.  Our gadgets are great for gathering or sending information, but they are terrible for resolving conflict or dealing with a problem.  In an e-mail there is no tone of voice, no body language, and no dialogue.

Guy at the Apple store when I was looking at a phone cover… “doesn’t it get in the way when you talk on the phone?”  his answer “yes, if you actually use your phone to talk.”  Other than with his parents 100% of his conversations are text messages

My fear is that because we have our heads buried in our smartphones and ipads, we are missing some of the special moments God has planned for us.  We are missing the chance to play with our kids, really care for someone in our congregation, or observe an amazing sunset.

HOW DO WE TAKE THE REINS AGAIN?

1. Know yourself and your tendencies.

For me, one of temptations is to constantly check my e-mail, because you never know when Amazon is going to having a big sale.  This is especially true when the little red circle on my iphone tells me I have received a new e-mail. I love having very few e-mails in my inbox.  The other day I sat by a guy on the plane and noticed that he had 17,423 unread e-mails.  I almost started hyper-ventilating.

Simply by going into my phone and turning off the e-mail notification, that little red circle doesn’t show up anymore. 

So, what is a temptation for you when it comes to technology?  If you aren’t sure, ask your spouse, your kids, or you church team.

2. Give people around you permission to throw a penalty flag.

Tell the people that know you well that it is your desire to not be constantly distracted by your technology and you want to give them permission to call you on it when you are being distracted.

3. Be intentional to create space and distance from technology.

Maybe consider giving your phone or computer a Sabbath.

4. Establish some personal boundaries and guidelines for how you use technology.

Consider having a time each evening when you shut down your technology for the day.  Maybe consider having your family meals be a no technology event.

5. Have a conversation with your team and family.

Have an honest conversation about ways that you and your family can proactively manage your technology.

My prayer for you is that you will protect your life and ministry from the constant intrusion of technology.  And, that we will learn how to be quiet and present… both with God and with others.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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