Dave Crenshaw believes multitasking is a myth. He’ll tell you your brain is not capable of handling multiple tasks at one time. We are ineffective when we try to do more than one thing at one time. And, maybe more importantly, it negatively impacts how we relate with other people. I caught up with Dave last week to ask him a few questions about his life and his new book. Here’s the interview.
TONY: First of all, tell us a little bit about your story.
DAVE: I began as a small business coach about ten years ago, before I had graduated from college. I found that small business owners are some of the most disorganized people in the world, and they multitask constantly. Because I saw time management as a constant need of my clients, I developed a program to help them. The Myth of Multitasking is a fictional story that is really the combination of experiences of many of my past clients.
TONY: Technology was supposed to make us more productive, but your new book suggests it may have the opposite effect. Why is that?
DAVE: Technology isn’t the culprit. It is our lack of understanding of how to use and deal with the technology that we have that is the problem. In a sense, technology has evolved rapidly, but we as the users, have evolved slowly. It is important for us to remember that technology is the servant and we are its masters. We do have the ability to turn off our cell phone or to turn off email or text message notifications on our computer. Amazingly, most people don’t realize they can do that.
TONY: My boss doesn’t let me take my laptop or my cell phone to meetings. Are you telling me he’s right?
DAVE: It depends. Personally I carry my Tablet PC with me everywhere and I find it very productive. However, I know when to shut the lid and give people my attention. Most people in our culture do not know when to stop using technology and start focusing on the person in front of them. If you spend your meeting checking your text messages, sending email, and surfing the internet, then no, you are not productive. However, if you know how and when to use these tools properly, then technology can definitely increase your productivity.
TONY: I’m married with four kids ages 3 through 14. What advice do you have for someone like me that’s trying to juggle family and work and writing and more?
DAVE: Budget your time. Be at peace with the truth of time; the truth of time is that there are only 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. This phrase sounds trite, but in our current society it has become almost profound. Learn to schedule 55 minutes of activity into a 60 minute hour. Balance comes from spending a few minutes less than what you have and leaving room for the unexpected.
Personally, I have a three year old and every day at five he knocks on my door and says, “Daddy let’s play!” Because I know this important appointment is coming, my computer is already turned off and my phone is set aside. From 5:00 pm forward I focus on my family until the next morning.
TONY: Be honest. From your perspective, how do churches add to or relieve the multitasking monster in people’s lives?
DAVE: I’m active in my church and teach a Sunday school class. No matter what your vocation in life, I’ve found taking a break regularly to rest your body and mind is vital to being more productive throughout the week. In this sense, one could say that the Sabbath is a divinely designed tool of effective time management. However, I’ve also seen people take on too many church responsibilities at the expense of their family and sometimes even their employer. Usually these conflicts occur on weeknights. There are only so many ways you can divide 24 hours. The key is to budget in advance how much time you are willing to devote to any activity and then live within that budget.