19th January 2022

In Bristol’s academic year, January certainly lives up to its namesake, the two-faced Roman God Janus. On the one hand, piles of marking from the first semester are hitting my desk, bringing the usual mix of delight and disappointment as I see how well (or otherwise!) students have responded to the previous semester’s work; on the other, everything needs to be prepared for the second semester, and deadlines abound. The inbox has started to overflow with student questions, both about the feedback on their essays and their work for their new modules. And on top of this, the news agenda remains a constant, grimly absorbing preoccupation. The temptation to multi-task in the name of efficiency is very powerful, and it is made so much easier by modern technology: to listen to the radio news while dealing with those few routine emails; to eat lunch while scanning the inbox; to squeeze in a phone conversation while walking the dog.

Yet recent research suggests that in fact, multi-tasking actually makes us less productive, more prone to making mistakes, and more susceptible to stress and anxiety. And even my dog notices when I am focused on someone else when walking her, so I’m sure my human interlocutors are aware of it as well. Living in Martha mode, ‘distracted by many tasks’ (Luke 10: 40) is no better for our health, our relationships, or our spiritual state now than it was back in Bethany. So today let’s pray that we retain our focus on what is important in our lives and allow everything else to fall into place around it.

Debbie Pinfold