Resolutions, Part 2: Focus
Mid-January is upon us, and with it, many of us are beginning to feel all squirrelly about our goals and resolutions. They're starting to feel harder and harder, and we might even be forgetting why we made them in the first place or if they're worth sticking to.
This is the second post in a series about resolutions. In case you missed the first post, you can catch it here.
FOCUSING ON WHAT MATTERS
There's nothing quite like spending quality time with friends and family or completely crushing a work or personal project. But those things don't just happen. We have to be very intentional about spending time on them in order to achieve them.
If we're not careful, we can spend more time focusing on and attending to what appears to be urgent rather than what's truly important. Allow me to explain the difference.
Urgent things appear to be important because they're right there in front of us: a looming deadline on a project, that mess on the kitchen counter, that email that just arrived with the little exclamation point emphasizing its urgency.
Important things matter because they are inherently valuable-- they lie close to our hearts. They impact our lives. These are things like taking care of ourselves, spending time with our loved ones, and doing our real, big work.
Sometimes things can be both urgent and important (like doing your taxes come April), but oftentimes, they are not the same thing. And just because urgent things are on the top of our to-do lists and right in front of our noses doesn't actually mean they're important.
Focusing on what matters means recognizing the difference and allocating our energy accordingly. It means dealing with emergent things quickly to move on to the more important things waiting on the sidelines, choosing to expend most of our energy there. It means sometimes putting the so-called "urgent" things on the back burner to instead focus on more important things sometimes (or even maybe throwing those "urgent" things out the window from time to time, demoting them, stripping them of their status, and removing their power over us and our time).
We all have only twenty-four hours in the day. And within those hours, we can only do so many things, so we have to choose what things we care most about doing.
I have a tendency to try to squeeze too many things into any given timeframe. If I have a Saturday morning free, I will likely try to fit in time reading my Bible and praying, a workout, cleaning the whole house, doing four loads of laundry, making breakfast and lunch for the week, and putting all the dishes away.
Now, I don't know about you, but I can't actually do all of that in a single morning. Maybe you're Superwoman and you can (if so, you go, girl!), but I think most of us have overcommitted in similar ways at one point or another-- even if it's just to ourselves.
But when we overcommit, we don't give enough of our attention to any one thing because we're trying to do too many things. To fix the problem, we need to decide what matters most, what deserves our attention the most.
So, what matters most to you? What is it that you want to spend more time doing? Who is it that you want to spend more time with?
What's holding you back from spending your time, your life, the way you want to?
It's all too easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of social media, get caught up answering emails or cleaning the house, or let our to-do lists rule our lives. But I think we would all agree that those things aren't the most important things.
So how do we stay focused with so many distractions?
We go back to our priorities and choose to refocus on what matters most to us. We time block our days so we're devoting specific segments of time to our most important tasks, ensuring that they get done. In that way, we're protecting them (and ourselves) from constant distractions.
Of course, unexpected distractions do come up, and we have to deal with those as they arise. But we can prepare by setting aside time to turn off our phones (or at least put them on Do Not Disturb mode), turning off the TV, and setting our to-do lists aside when we want to spend concentrated time with our friends and family or on completing a specific task or project.
Do you have any tips or tricks for staying focused on what matters most to you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!