Narrow Your Focus
The sounds are deafening. New message alerts combined with colleagues (or kids) talking outside your door make it difficult to focus. You open Facebook and your feed screams contrary messages, while clients keep calling to demand your response to the latest social issues. We struggle to hear ourselves think, and we wonder if we are making any positive progress for our organizations.
How can we hope to thrive amid the myriad of internal and external factors demanding our attention?
Serving in organizational leadership can be challenging to say the least. No matter our individual functions, the organizations we serve are counting on our effectiveness regardless of the circumstances. How can we hope to thrive amid the myriad of internal and external factors demanding our attention?
Here are a few tips that might help us narrow our focus:
- Set a schedule
The writer of Ecclesiastes suggests there is a time for everything (Ecc. 3:1-8). Taking some liberties, I suggest you should set aside a time for everything you want to accomplish each day. Schedule dedicated times to read and respond to emails and phone messages. Avoid social media during work hours unless it is a part of your job. Even then, schedule when you will read and respond. Putting these time suckers in a confined schedule will help you stay focused on accomplishing your daily goals.
Acquire a day planner that enables you to see a week at a glance. Each day of the week should include a ruled hourly structure. Identify three goals for the week and write these across the top of the week at a glance pages. Schedule every working hour of each day with an intentional focus on accomplishing your three goals.
Use a pencil to fill out your schedule so that you can make adjustments as necessary. However, you should try to stay on schedule if possible. Set specific time slots to accomplish specific tasks. Allot larger blocks of time for the more time-consuming tasks. Include planning for meetings and meal breaks as well as multi-hour time slots dedicated to projects.
Establish a ritual at the end of your workday that helps your brain know it is time to stop. A ritual could be something as simple as locking your computer or closing your day planner. It could be something fun like spinning in your chair, throwing up your hands, and exclaiming, “That’s it!” After performing your ritual, repent. That is, turn your back on the organization and walk in a new direction for the rest of the day. Your mind will continue to work behind the scenes, but your focus should be on something other than your work.
I once read of a minister who, before entering his home, rubbed a leaf on a tree outside. He said that he was letting the tree hold his burdens so that he could give himself fully to his family once he entered the door. This is what I am asking you to do. Rub a leaf, spin in a chair, or close your planner. Whatever you do, let it go and give your mind a rest from the cares, concerns, and burdens of the organization.
Once you identify your power sources, take the time to plug in to them.
Just as phone batteries need recharging after a day of unending tasks, our bodies and minds need an opportunity to connect to a life-giving power source. What are some activities that refresh your spirit and renew your mind? Once you identify your power sources, take the time to plug in to them. Get some exercise. Read a book. Enjoy a movie. Play games with your family or friends. Your mind, body and spirit will thank you for taking the time to rest and recharge.
- Stick with it
Following a planner, establishing a “shut-down” ritual, and dedicating time to recharge do not come easy. It will take about three weeks of dedication before these new patterns become habit. However, if you stick with it, you will find yourself amazed by all you are able to accomplish and the fresh perspective you can bring to each new day.
Work smart during the day and stop working when the day is done. Plug into an energizing power source and stick with the plan. Make your vocation more than a job to survive. Work in ways that help you and your organization thrive.
Tyson S. Chastain, CCNL, MANT, serves as the director of alumni relations with Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn. A two-time graduate of the university (B.A., 2000, M.A., 2007), he joined the staff in 2002. Tyson enjoys “the world’s game” and serves as a certified soccer official with the USSF and TSSAA. Contact Tyson at Tchastain@JohnsonU.edu.