Distractions are always a deterrent to forward motion. Now, more than ever, distractions related to COVID-19 limit our attention span and make it difficult to focus long enough to complete work. Things we don’t normally think about, like making sure to stay six feet away from people in public places, finding adequate food and supplies, and wondering if an occasional cough or feeling of fatigue signals the onset of this deadly virus occupy our thoughts.
Following are several keys to staying focused now and in the future:
Yes, I know this sounds like a major duh, but focus is about self-discipline and self-discipline is an act of willing yourself to do something other than the path of least resistance. When everything around you is pushing your focus in one direction, you have to discipline yourself not to go with the flow. You can do this by limiting time watching Covid-19 reports and updates and by not clicking on every article headline that blips across your computer screen or pops in your inbox. Also, it might help to set a timer and work on a specific project until the timer goes off. This will help you retrain your focus.
Sometimes, working on a project that requires less brain power helps you ease into harder more focused work. Often, the very act of starting, rather than dreading starting, propels forward motion. For me, getting still in front of the computer and typing the first few sentences primes the writing pump. Once I begin, I can dive more deeply into the work and ignore distractions.
Utilize a Reward System
When my daughter was three, after many failed attempts to get her to give up her pacifier, I instituted a sticker calendar to help the process. Actually, she had two pacifiers, one she sucked and one she touched to the tip of her nose. For each day she went without her pacies for the prescribed amount of time, she received a sticker to place on her calendar. If she covered each day that week with a sticker, she got a surprise on the weekend. The grand prize came when she gave up both pacifiers.
Staying focused requires keeping your eyes on the prize. I currently have a book deadline, and until COVID-19 barreled into our world, my grand prize was a trip to Europe this fall. To meet my deadline, I’m pretending that trip is still the prize.
Using a reward system helps you meet daily and weekly goals which allows you to reach your long-term goal. When you’re tempted to slack off, remember that much more is added to tomorrow, thus making it more difficult to meet your goals.
Often our expectations of what we can accomplish are too high. While limiting distractions is key to forward motion, now, while we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledge that focus is more difficult than ever and realize breaking your tasks into manageable chunks may work best. The phase “eat the elephant one bite at a time” provides a visual of a realistic approach during these days when distractions abound.
Spend Time Outside
When I walked to the mailbox one morning, I saw my neighbor working in his flower beds, cleaning out leaves and other debris that collected there over the winter. While spending time outside might seem counterproductive and unfocused, creativity and productivity are often spurred by time spent in nature.
I have had some of my best writing ideas while walking, planting, or simply viewing nature and pondering. In these days when we’ve been asked to limit interaction in public venues, spending time outdoors at home is a welcome place of respite.
Our current culture is one of always on and always connected. Because of that, most of us don’t get adequate rest. Even late at night we have a hard time disconnecting from screens and allowing our natural body rhythms to take over and prepare for sleep. Rest refuels your body, shifts your perspective, and enhances your ability to focus. That’s why it’s important to make sleep a priority.
Feed Your Soul
Each summer, as I watch the water level in our pool drop daily, I’m reminded how quickly evaporation occurs. It’s the same for our souls. Especially now, when fear and distress evaporate courage and focus, if you’re not continually pouring in, you’ll quickly run dry.
Find what feeds you spiritually. Listen to music or messages that refresh and refuel. Spend time in pray and God’s word. The comfort and peace you’ll receive balances the frustration and fear of these days and adjusts your focus forward, toward hope and the future.
“Set your gaze on the path before you. With fixed purpose, looking straight ahead, ignore life’s distractions.” Proverbs 4: 25 TPT
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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