Updated: Jun 13, 2020
This week’s topic, focus, has been one of the most challenging for me, and perhaps for you as well, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. What has changed these past three months that has made focus so much more difficult?
We are out of healthy routines. We may like to complain about routines, but many of them have been carved out over years of discipline and efficiency. Routines and rituals allow our minds to focus on the more complicated issues rather than mundane tasks. Almost overnight those simple routines were “rebooted,” causing our minds to be on overdrive 24x7 seeking greater balance and order to our day. It’s an ongoing series of discovery and adjustment - and it’s taxing to our focus.
Many projects and ministries (both home and church) suddenly lost relevancy because of our changed environment. It required that we ‘pivot’ in our daily responsibilities in ways none of could have ever anticipated. The old saying, “he who hesitates is lost” became a frustrating fog that we prayerfully sought to find our way out. For many of us our jobs have changed significantly and that is impacting our ability to focus.
We have been running low on physical and emotional energy, which has diminished our ability to focus on the tasks in front of us. I’ve already written on the dangers of sleep deprivation. Most of us have also been hit with countless new stressors and decisions of which we have never had training or past experiences to recall for guidance. The result is a downward spiral on our energy level which impacts our ability to focus.
So then, how can you and I discover a renewed focus in our ministry and personal lives?
Let me propose the following:
Focus on God’s Holy Word and invite the Holy Spirit to provide greater focus in your work, conversations, and thoughts. The world would say, “get busy getting focused!” But, as Christian Shepherds, we know the counter-intuitive gift of temporarily letting go of all other demands on us so that God’s Word captures our mind and hearts (Rom 12:2, Col 3:2).
After a time of centering ourselves in God’s Truth and Grace, we can then best turn and focus on the day given to us. Michael Hyatt, leadership and productivity expert, has been tremendously helpful to me in this area. He recommends identifying 3 must-do activities each day. Certainly you will get more done, but what three tasks would be the key to a productive day?
Consider trying the Pomodoro Technique developed by Italian Francesco Cirillo. He used a tomato(“Pomodoro”)-shaped timer to work in 25 minute intervals with 5 minute stretch breaks. After four of these cycles you would then take a longer break (15-30 minutes). I would also recommend putting your phone in Airplane mode and turning off other laptop notifications as much as possible. Also close email during this time, if at all possible.
My prayer for our renewed focus? Certainly, that we could serve our family, our ministry, and our neighbor in greater ways. But beyond that... “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV May a renewed focus reveal God’s grace at work around us!
If you would like grow more in your ability to focus, I would recommend Michael Hyatt’s book, “Free to Focus.” I would also welcome hearing what has worked for you in the area of ‘focusing’.