One thing I find myself constantly fighting is distraction. Lest the reader think I mean the normal distractions of daily life as a spouse and parent, let me explain. When I say distraction, I mean the interior variety. What I really need is focused thought. I imagine you can relate in one way or another.
In order to be healthy, we need to take care of the spiritual, physical, mental, vocational, and recreational aspects of who we are. In my case, this summer of dreams is about revitalizing all of them. To that end, this summer has been incredibly productive and edifying. It comes with an unexpected cost, however. A renewed commitment to prayer, exercise, learning, producing content and building a platform, and balancing it all with appropriate rest and relaxation leaves me constantly… invigorated. Invigorated? Doesn’t sound like a problem, right? It’s a good problem to have, for sure, but it is a challenge! You see, I feel so good that my level of creativity is at an all-time high… and I don’t have time to accomplish everything that comes to mind. More than ever, I need focused thought, or nothing at all gets done. That part should sound familiar to just about everyone.
Focused thought is possible even amidst distraction of the interior kind. I offer the following suggestions…
Make a list
It helps to write things down and put them in order of importance. A great free resource for doing this is Workflowy. A first consideration must be things that are pressing and fixed. In my case, the school year is now weeks away. Class prep is very high on my list, even if it’s not what I most want to do right now. Keeping up with the blog and other regular chosen activities belong in this category too. Another consideration is weight of importance. It may be that a family matter needs immediate attention, or you have your own important desired activities. In my case, I am writing a book. It takes precedence above all other activities, after the areas already mentioned. Dreams that are just taking shape should make the list too. By writing them down and giving them their proper priority on your list, it ensures you’ll keep your eye on them, but you won’t let them compromise your focused thought in the near term.
Cut it out
I just heard that studies show people touch their smartphones over a thousand times a day. If that includes checking texts, e-mails, tweets, and Facebook posts, you can be sure you have less focused thought than you could. For that reason, I removed the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone… and… I removed the App Store. My daughter made up a restriction code for my phone, and only she knows it. I can’t just put the apps back on it. You have no idea how free I feel! Oh, I still check them online when I read the morning news, but that’s enough for the day. I dare you to try it! You’ll thank me later. This little “cut it out” strategy will give you time back that you can use to accomplish whatever is on that list you’re going to make, right?
Revisit and Revise
As you cut things out and cross items off your list, it feels amazing. It never has to end, either. Keep coming back to that list. Priorities change and life throws things at us, forcing us to adapt. The goal, however, is to be as intentional as possible with yourself and your time. Try not to let life happen to you more than you shape it yourself, always with God’s help, of course.
These are just a few of the things I find helpful in maintaining focused thought. If you have ideas of your own to share, please leave a comment so we can all benefit!