How do you stay focused on what matters most amidst the day-to-day distractions of life?
I find myself so easily needing course corrections. In case you’re reading this post to find out the answer let me just state up front that I don’t have an answer yet. I’m still figuring it out daily, but I wanted to share a few things that help me.
That’s right, I’ve got to have priorities and those priorities need to be ranked so I know what is essential and what comes in lower down on the list. Without this I will never do what is most important because there will always be things that seem urgent but are not essential.
How you choose priorities and what priorities you choose is an individual matter, but let me give you a hint – God has a lot to say about what is essential and He’s waiting for you to seek Him for the answers. He’s even ready to remind you that His priorities for you will be individual and may not be the same as His priorities for someone else. “To every thing there is a season” – what is your season?
Sometimes I find that the things God wants for my priorities don’t include what I think they should. An example in my life right now is my children’s education. I’ve always enjoyed the academics and we’ve done a wide variety of learning in our little homeschool. Right now God’s emphasis is on foundations though. He’s continually reminding me to strengthen a few key areas for each child and to let go of extras.
Another priority right now is my own health through this pregnancy. We’ve been making some changes in our eating that are going well. I’m even enjoying it. However I am being nudged to do some specific exercise time using a particular DVD. Not only does that mean I need to find time in my day, but I need to find energy too! It’s certainly not what I want as a priority, but it is what God is calling me to.
One theme I have noticed Elder Dallin H. Oaks speak on in General Conference is this choosing of priorities. Here are three of his talks that I highly recommend:
Routines or Schedules
This helps in two ways. First, having routines for priorities gives us a rut to run in. We got home from vacation late Saturday night and into bed in the wee hours of Sunday morning. However, being back in our familiar surroundings we had our routines to slip into, such as scripture study done at the table after dinner. It took no extra thought or planning on my part, we just grabbed the scriptures and did it.
The second way routines help are in managing those day-to-day distractions. I never know when the moment will come that a child needs me – be it for a snuggle, some discipline, or a heart-to-heart talk. These moments can so easily be pushed aside when I’m too busy cleaning up the newest mess or trying to conquer a mountain of laundry that was left to pile up until it took over the house.
Using routines for the housework keeps me free to stop what I’m doing because I know the household tasks have been maintained. For example, I certainly could wait to do laundry until it piles up and fills every basket, but by having a routine of washing two loads every morning (1 of clothing, 1 of cloth diapers) I avoid the mess, the stress, and and entire day spent slaving over laundry instead of responding to my children when they need me.
I think the final key right now for me is to have a regular time to evaluate what my focus has been in the preceding week. Sunday when the children lay down for quiet time I usually snuggle up on the couch with my husband and we talk about the past week as well as the upcoming one.
- Has there been too much of a focus on one area?
- Have we let something important slide?
- Is there someone or something we need to spend more time on in the coming week?
- Does the way we’ve spent our time reflect those priorities we feel are essential, or did we get distracted from the essential this week?
While I could do this evaluation on my own, and sometimes I do, I find that having two of us participate brings more perspective to the answers. I can’t pretend to myself that things went well when he’s there to remind me of all the time spent on non-essentials. I also can’t tear apart my week and focus on something small, blowing it out of proportion, because my husband is there to remind me to look at the big picture.
What do you think? How do you stay focused on what matters most amidst the day-to-day distractions of life?