Our Life of Multitasking and Skimming in Search of Productivity

Maybe its photography over the past 20 years that has made me over sensitive to our cultural demands for productivity, which in turn has given way to our two worst developed habits in search of better productivity, multi-tasking and skimming text. I am probably the worst at putting aside distractions but photography is one of those art forms that takes time, sometimes, a lot of time, and has helped me immensely over the years. Photography takes time just sitting there doing nothing, waiting, waiting on the right moment (hunters will appreciate this too). This one shot of the bird above took me at least an hour to capture last night, and it wasn’t a multitasking hour, it was a setup and wait hour, something almost unheard of anymore outside of photography, hunting, and maybe a few other tasks like actual Christian meditation or prayer.

I am trying to walk (not run) my way through Tim Challies new book, “The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion” where he talks about these very issues. In one section on learning to live without distractions (because we live in a world of constant and continuous distractions) Challies points out that when we turn to the bible we see very little demand for constant productivity, especially in ways we measure today. What we do see is a constant effort by Jesus to slow the pace of life, making time for meditation, prayer, and communion with the Father and His friends. Challies puts it like this:

What is unique in our time is that skimming has now become the dominant form of reading… The danger for Christians is apparent. If we grow so accustomed to skimming words, to passing quickly over texts, we will eventually impose this practice on the words of God… The danger today, in an era of skimming and fragmentation, is that we will fragment the Bible into small bits and have no time or ability to craft unity from the parts.

Being Productive is Not Our Higher Calling in Life

Productivity is one of those things that came out of our big factories decades ago, something that has never diminished, and has only gotten more and more intense as the years go by. Brought on by an insatiable need for being productive (in anything) we multitask and skim. In fact, if you have actually read this far, you are a rare breed among readers today. Most of us just skim text, especially text on the Internet, in approximately 2-3 seconds, and then move on.

According to Challies research, when we “multitask” we really aren’t multitasking as much as we are just jumping from task to task, paying little attention to either. In fact his research showed that it takes us 50% longer to complete each task than if we had done the one task and then moved on, and when we have completed each task the overall quality was greatly reduced as well. It forces us to give partial attention to the task or person right in front of us.

We Can No Longer Give People Our Full Attention

One of the most annoying traits I run across today is that very few people are actually capable of giving me their full attention. I rarely have a conversation with someone without them constantly looking at their cell phone, checking their email, sending text messages, or whatever. Face to face may be more rare today, but even when we do give someone our time, we don’t get but a part of that person in return. I will often just stop talking and wait for them to finish what they are doing, but many times the person won’t notice at all (something Deborah has done to me for years as well).

The point to all this is that, at least in part, is that we as Christians are in a faith that requires us to learn. And one of God’s biggest chosen methods is text, completed paragraphs of thought, made into full letters and books. Thoughts that flow from one book to another and are all connected from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible isn’t full of bullet points, it’s full of completed thoughts. The more we multitask, the more we demand productivity, the less ability we have to sit and read full blocks of text.

It’s like a drug. The less we sit in one place working on one single task, whether that’s reading, photography, or work, without regards to productivity, the less we can. Over two years ago I wrote a blog post called The Internet is The Church’s New Drug of Choice and it’s quite fascinating to see how much father down the road of distraction, multitasking, and skimming text, we have come in only two years.

Thoughts About the Constant Search for Productivity

Because I know for a fact that almost no one is going to read the above 775 words, I give you the bulleted version. In case you didn’t guess by now, I am far less concerned with the productivity factor in life than I am in developing a history of quality. I personally want to be able to do a few things well, never a lot of things in a mediocre fashion.

Photography has been one of those grounding things for me, because it takes time to perfect. There are no shortcuts to learning how to be a good photographer, it takes time no matter what equipment you buy (even if it’s a cell phone). As the time I spent shooting went down in 2009 and 2010 I had forgotten the value of time spent doing just one task at a time, until I got to this point. Since then I have taken more shots (spent more time) in the first 4 months of 2011 than I did all last year, and it’s a good reminder that productivity isn’t the most important thing in life.

  • Productivity is not what we are called to achieve in life
  • Multitasking is just doing several things at once, poorly
  • Multitasking leads us to ignore people standing in front of us
  • Skimming leads us away from thinking and ultimately knowledge
  • Skimming text is detrimental to our ability to read completed thoughts
  • The bible rarely calls us to hurry up and be more productive
  • The bible is not a book we can skim, we have to actually read it
  • There is a difference between taking your time and being lazy
  • The more we live a distracted life the more we need it
  • Embrace tasks that can only be done by themselves

There you have it, my ten bullet point thoughts from this post. Better stop now, 1,138 words is certainly WAY longer than any successful blog post is supposed to be, next time I’ll try to shoot for the standard 250 words… but don’t count on it.

Perdido Key National Seashore Photos :: Friday Feet

sea gull on the gulf coast

friday feet

bike ride in the gulf coast

plant in the sand

scott and deborah


Today was our first and last full day on the gulf coast.  For January, the weather was beautiful but very very windy.  We went to one of our most favorite places in the Perdido Key area, the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We never really stay for more than a day or two down here but you pay for a 7-day pass ($8) and have access to one of the most wonderful white sand beaches on the Alabama/Florida gulf coast shore lines.

Every time we have been here the 5-7 mile stretch of beach has only a handful of people (today almost no one) and it seems to be one of those few areas in the country that still has pristine beaches and little sign of city life.  Our other favorite area like this is over on the Outter Banks of North Carolina which also has some of the most untouched beaches in the country. So for my Friday Feet post today, here is my feet image, and also a few more.  Tomorrow is it back to Auburn and back to work.

How to Tell a Story or Draw Conclusions with a Bald Eagle Photo

An American Icon the Bald Eagle

A friend of mine asked me yesterday “what is your favorite photo you have ever taken”. When I couldn’t answer that question, he asked me about my favorite series of photos.  That was an easier question but one I still really couldn’t answer.  In a way, both are almost impossible questions to answer, much like the question I get once in a while “what is your favorite place geographically”. I like different locations for different reasons, and some I prefer over others, but not one single place that says, come here forever and you will be happy. That is like trying to pick one photo or one series out of a decade of images.

One photo may speak a 1,000 words as the saying goes, but it doesn’t tell an extensive story.  You can take a single image and tell a story, but if you see a sequence or completed album often it can tell a completely different story all together, perhaps one the photographer is specifically trying to portray.  Where one photo is a sliver in history, at least a sequence of photos gives you a time line to look at.

Some musicians do not release singles but prefer only to release an entire album, because the album tells a story.  Pink Floyd was great at this, but Garth Brooks has said many times that he has refused to sell singles on iTunes because he compiles an album to be just that, a complete work that tells a story that would be incomplete when you listen to one single song, or the songs out-of-order.

Photography, to me, is much like the music example above.  Photographers will often take a series of photos to tell a story, a sequence of history to show how he or she sees an event, people, or places that the photographer was involved with at some level, even if that was just to observe.

What is the Story of the Bald Eagle

So, what does this image tell us, what story does it tell.  It is an American icon, a Bald Eagle.  Do you think of majestic places, cold Alaska wilderness, some government endangered species list or something green like that?

By itself, it is a nice shot of a beautiful bird, but it doesn’t tell a story like it would if you looked at the sequence of photographs taken before and after the bald eagle image.  To see the entire shoot, go to the bald eagle gallery and see how he fits into the story of the image above, but, once you open the gallery, don’t just go, oh yeah, figures, click on the slideshow if you are so inclined (upper right), and watch the story in order (it is a rare one this year) in its entity as it was written by the artist.

What Conclusions Do We Make with People

If you made it this far you may be wondering what’s the point.  Who cares anyway besides the photographer or musician… well… I think this bleeds over into our daily lives.  How often do we look at a piece of the story and come to some conclusion?   How often do we look at a person not in our own circle and make some conclusion based on our one single snap shot of their lives?  How about those within our circle?

I think in our culture of today’s sound bite mentality we no longer have the ability to absorb and understand the whole story.  We don’t have the time, nor do we care, we just come to some conclusion, right or wrong, and move on.  This is the same with friends, co-workers, acquaintances, or just those passing by on the street.  We are so busy that we only have time to take a snap shot of the things that pass through our life and then forget about it and move on.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine this morning and I finally told him to just come to a conclusion and move on and he said “I don’t operate like that”.  It made me think about how often we do this, just for the sake of time.  It isn’t always important to know the entire story (sometimes knowing all is quite bad once we get all the facts), but taking the time to at least look at the gallery the artist put together might bring us to another conclusion.

This post could go in a thousand directions from here, but it was really a segway to my next post, Alabama Rural Ministries Make a Difference Day // Photos, and making this the intro to that post all on one page would be incredibly hard on the eyes.  But I will leave you with this series of questions… do we look at something from the outside and make conclusions without knowing the entire story?  Do we judge people in this fashion?  Do we conclude the worth of someone based on these snapshots?

John 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Stay tuned for part 2….

Hand Feeding a Ruby Throat Hummingbird :: Photos

Photos of a Ruby Throat Hummingbird in Flight

Photos of a Ruby Throat Hummingbird in Flight

Did I mention we have some crazy, very aggressive eating Ruby Throat Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) here at the house? These little guys are not in the least bit shy, and will act more like a hungry dog if you let their food run dry.  These images were taken as Deborah was trying to put their food back on the window.  A family of about 10 Ruby Throat Hummingbirds live in our yard, I think there are probably 10 more or so that live in the close surrounding area, and when you go out to change their food, they dive bomb you.

This female Ruby Throat Hummingbird finally sat down for a meal, and stayed a while.  Usually she is fighting with the males for a seat, and this time, she decided to be bold and take a seat to eat with Deborah.  The males didn’t seems to interested in chasing her off, but not happy she was the only one eating. She sat, alone, on this feeder while Deborah held it in her hand for about five minutes without getting up (all while flock of other hummingbirds buzzed around her head trying to figure out how to also take a seat at the table).  I have found over time, birds will get to know you, and trust you.  I have also had small wild birds eat out of my hand like the common gray finch, but this was the first time with a hummingbird.

I did upload a few more images of this shoot in the nature > small small creatures gallery.  One in particular is a wider angle shot that shows my wife and her holding the feeder, not just her hand.  We have had hummingbirds at this house since we moved in and each year they come back to the same window letting us know they have arrived.  They seem to have a great memory (even from year to year) and will return to the same location, feeder or no feeder.

Do you have any crazy hummingbirds at your house?  The season is almost over for them here in Alabama and soon they will be off to their winter home in Mexico, Central and South America and the West Indies.  If you want to see them next Spring, just put out a feeder and they will find it.

Limpkin Invades Wakulla Springs State Park

Limpkin in Wakulla Springs State Park

I have over the years learned to really appreciate the wildlife photographers that specialize in photographing birds. It is no easy task when they are usually so skidish of any movement. This guy was shot from a small floating boat in the swamp, he must be use to crazy photographers.

Wakulla Springs State Park in Florida has an unbelievable number of species to be able to photograph, and you don’t have to have a real high dollar setup to get some good shots here. This photo is a Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), which are somewhat related to the cranes.

They are a pretty good sized bird, this one is protecting his nest as we go quietly by in our non-motorized boat, although he doesn’t look all that happy about our presence.

Image Specifics

  • Body – Nikon n90s
  • Lens – Nikon 75-300mm @ 300mm
  • Film – Kodak 100S

Star Trails Over the House in a Nature Kind of Day

If you are new to my blog, welcome, glad you came by. I usually do a wrap up of the day, called my daily post, and this is it. Not always the most exciting post in the world, but sometimes, days are just normal days.

I try to keep up with a quick daily post for myself as much as anything else. Looking back, I can remember things I never could have remembered before without writing them down. So, in a nut shell, that is what this post is all about.

I took this photo of my house, late last night, so I thought I would go ahead and include it for today’s post. The sky was clear with no moon. First time I have attempted to photograph our house at night, I am sure it won’t be the last (you may have to click on the larger version to see the star trails, if interested).

Please do excuse the boxes on the patio, thanks.

May 5, 2008

Today was a day spent at the office without leaving, which is fine, since I work out of my home. I got pretty much a little of everything done today, but it was mostly work with a little Twitter. Tomorrow will prove to be a very busy day as we take all our processed orders from today into town and do all our various tasks when we hook up with everyone in Auburn/Opelika.

Nature in View

Today was a nature viewing kind of day. It started off with three deer wandering through the pasture and into the pond. They did a nice slow walk all the way across the width of the property and ran off across the road to a graveyard near by.

After they left, we had a very loud pair of Canadian Geese they landed like a bomber without engines into the pond. They managed to take a bath leaving a ton of feathers behind when they left.

I had a headache that just wouldn’t let go so I decided to take an early walk around the perimeter and once back into the deeper part of the woods here I came up onto a Whip-poor-will sleeping in the leaves. I had never seen one before, and apparently they are not easily seen since they are nocturnal.

Seems I was walking in his sleeping area. As I made my second lap he was still up in the trees moving around from branch to branch waiting for me to leave no doubt.

Auburn Raptor Center with the Golden Eagle

The image of the day is an image that is pretty much a symbol of lower Alabama area, the Golden Eagle. More than a mascot, this is a magnificent bird to see in flight. This is another photo that was taken at the Auburn University Raptor Center during a photography shoot.  There were so many magnificent birds at the raptor center like a Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Falcons of all kinds and so much more, like this Great Horned Owl I photographed below.

Photographing wildlife, in the wild is very challenging and can require some expensive equipment to really get the shots you are looking for. A good way to get your feet wet in the wildlife area is to photograph in a controlled setting, like a zoo or wildlife sanctuary.  These large raptor birds are so beautiful and seeing them up close is really something.  If you have a chance, go down to the Auburn Raptor Center and see all the birds they have.

Auburn Raptor Center and Great Horned Owl in Flight

Sometimes when photographing wildlife you just have to be in the right place at the right time. This is no small owl, the Great Horned Owl is quite large, and their flight is so silent that I have seen them fly across a large pasture, right by my head, and never knew they were there until I saw the enormous wing span of this bird fly by.

Other times though, you would be best to make your own luck. This shot was taken at the Auburn University Raptor Center when my UAB photography class was invited to see the birds, and learn about wildlife photography while we were there. Proper technique in wildlife photography is important so as not to disrupt the animals behavior, but it also isn’t as simple as asking a person to turn and smile.

We have these owls all around our property here in Alabama. I would hate to have this guy bearing down on my head. His distinctive yellow eyes makes him look quite intense.

Other posts of note on the Great Horned Owl I found are: OWL: Great horned owls!, and Hatchling Great Horned Owl, if you ever have a chance, try to visit the AU Raptor Center, you won’t be disappointed.

Image Specifics

Testing Out Freelance Work With Elance

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The weather today could not have been nicer down here in beautiful LA. It is now in the mid-80’s during the day and very pleasant at night. It won’t be long before we will have to shut all doors and windows and not open them again until winter, lest we melt from the heat.

Work and Elance

Today was a nice day spent working in the office. We didn’t have to go anywhere and tomorrow will be about the same before we leave on Friday for the gulf coast. We are going to spend a long needed weekend down on the coast. Even if it rains the entire time we are there it will be nice to be back down on the water again.

I bid on my first project over at Elance today. I have been preparing my profile, resume, and all other things I felt were needed to present to any potential client that I am indeed the hard working, reliable person I say I am on my profile page. I spent almost two months getting all my ducks in a row to pick up some freelance work from this specific site.

We will see how it goes tomorrow when the bids close for that particular project. There is a lot of information about what to do and not to do on Elance, like, Elance Tips: Top 5 Projects You Should Run Away From, hopefully I picked a good one.

I did manage to pick up the guitar and practice a bit today. New scales from yesterday’s lesson have my fingers numb and very sore. Open E blues scale and A blues scale on tops on the list for this week.

Nature in View

Not much happening in this area today. We had a gigantic Turkey Vulture sit on the edge of the pond, I guess waiting for something to just float up for lunch. Nothing else but the crazy Whippoorwills today, and a frequent squirrel visitor who was thrilled that I put out a bunch of cracked pecans just for him.

After dinner on the patio we did enjoy a nice fire. Still a good size of biomass to burn up from clearing over the winter.