3 Practices to Focus Your Life

“'Last forever!' Who hasn't prayed that prayer?You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.”  -Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Some days I struggle with my focus.

I want to be caught up with my reading goals, well informed at work, and writing well.

I aim to be in touch with my friends, appreciative of my spouse, and engaged with my children.

Of course, I want to do this while staying in shape, keeping the house clean, staying in touch with the news of the day, and getting plenty of sleep.

Then there's the social media space that lures me into people's faces, tweets, and pins.

There is no way to "balance" the demands of life; there is only the opportunity to prioritize, edit, and blend.   But how to do that?  Most people say "unplug," which sounds great but is impractical if I wish to stay employed.

1. Prioritize through Perspective

I've heard it said that if you review newspaper headlines from previous decades, the biggest trends and stories of the era were missed.  Whether that's accurate or not, I think of that anecdote whenever I get too caught up in the "tyranny of the urgent"and neglect to focus on what's important.

Vacuuming dog hair, getting my car washed, keeping up with the twitter feed: not important. Having a dog, hurrying home, laughing: important.

The first list makes me stressed because I feel as if I'm fighting a losing battle to "keep up."  The second list enriches me.  I need to remember which list deserves my attention.

2. Pruning gives life

I read a book last year called Necessary Endings where the author describes how every Master Gardener knows that pruning is essential to maintain life in a plant.

Without pruning limbs that are dead, sick, or crowding a plant, you can't expect optimal growth.  Initially, I find this idea challenging, but ultimately the idea of saying "no" more often feels freeing.  And so I say "no" more frequently and with fewer apologies.

This summer we pruned day "camps" and extra outings with the goal of increasing "hang out" time with each other.

Rarely does pruning require major surgery.

Most of the time it requires little trims here and there:  saying no to that party, skipping a play date, or foregoing a search for the perfect summer shoe. Trims help give us room to focus on more important areas of life.

3. Blending Goals

Since I can't do everything, what activities go together?

I  haven't seen the inside of a gym in years, but I CAN burn some calories with my kids on a bike, with the dog on a walk, or with half the world in the pool. Exercise, check!

I can't invest in everyone in my path, but I CAN articulate leadership ideas on the blog and test them out with my "Beta" girls in a "small group" environment. Mentoring, check!

I can't spend time perfecting my golf swing, but I love to cook and that helps my family eat. Hobby, check!

I'm hopeful you get the idea.

The strategy is simple: Perspective - Pruning - Blending.  Unfortunately, it's not easy.

How do you keep your focus?