Fast food, multi-tasking, and an Iraqi Jew
A couple of Sundays ago, our pastor told us about his experience in seminary. He decided to pursue part of his studies at Jerusalem University in Israel. One day, he offered to pick up a fellow student, saving his colleague a long walk. Shortly after picking him up, he said, “Why don’t we hit a restaurant, go through the drive-thru, and pick up some food.” His friend, an Iraqi Jew, looked at him with an incredulous look, and asked, “Uh, what’s a ‘drive-thru’?” Our pastor was dumbfounded but played the innocent and politely explained the phenomena. The Iraqi paused for a moment and firmly said, “There’s something wrong when you can’t stop and enjoy a meal.”
You know, that story would even be funnier if it weren’t true. I think that among the annals of “Great American Inventions,” the drive-thru restaurant wouldn’t be one of them. Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and KFC would vehemently disagree. After all, more than half their sales come from customers ordering a Big Mac or a half dozen wings from the comfort of their car. Never mind that you jeopardize a spilled Coke or some excess catsup on your shirt when balancing your food on a steering wheel. You got places to go and things to do.
Consider the power of presence
In my work with clients, I often share this quote: Never underestimate the power of presence. I often insert the word full before the word presence. Increasingly, full presence is more of a gift. It’s a gift because it is so rare. Yet, we don’t seem to want to allow this because it might sacrifice the need to eat, listen to the radio, call someone on our Bluetooth, or Lord forbid, text. In other words, we multi-task.
Multi-tasking isn’t confined to cars. We do it all the time. In fact, I have to confess I’m half-watching a playoff baseball game as I’m writing this. Sorry about that. Multi-tasking seems to be something prized in the workplace. We admire those who balance multiple priorities as though they are one of the “Flying Wallendas.” Yet, a closer analysis might prompt a pause. In an article by Kendra Cherry entitled, The Cognitive Cost of Multi-Tasking, she references a study by researchers Joshua Rubinstein, Jeffrey Evans and David Meyer who discovered that people “lose significant amounts of time as they switched between multiple tasks and lost even more time as the tasks became increasingly complex.” The research indicates that “productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 percent by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.”
Back to our Iraqi Jew friend. Although he might not cite the percentages, I can’t help but wonder if I’m only offering 60 percent of who I am due to multi-tasking. And that’s especially indicting when I’m attempting to talk to my wife while watching TV. Or, if I’m talking to a client while checking my calendar.
Is this true for you, too?
Maybe, it’s time to re-evaluate our addictions to fast-food and generally to anything that smacks of multi-tasking. Take time to be present—fully present. And let someone else take your turn in the drive-thru. They’ll thank you for that while you’ll thank yourself.