Happy September, everyone! The school year is off to wonderful start. The children seem to be happy at school. Carpool is going well. I am grateful to God and to each of you for all the work you did to give us a good beginning. Thank you.
At Staff Development Day, I introduced you to our theme for the year: The Focused Teacher. I said that focus is something you have (a clear sense of what you need to do) and something you do (giving your full attention to a task or person.) Each month in “The Scoop,” I’ll share some thoughts and inspiration as we all work on strengthening our focusing skills.
So here’s my focusing nugget for this month…
Focusing is easier when your environment supports mono-tasking.
Multi-tasking can be counter-productive and stressful. A 2007 study of Microsoft workers found that when they responded to email or instant messaging alerts, it took them, on average, nearly 10 minutes to deal with their inboxes or messages, and another 10-15 minutes to really get back into their original tasks. That means that a mere three distractions per hour can keep you from getting anything else done.
Being focused requires that we choose to mono-task: to do one thing at a time. I am learning that a distracting physical environment is a huge reason why I lose focus. This summer I moved my inbox from the corner of by desk to a shelf in the bookcase behind my desk. I did this because the piles of things on my desk pull my attention in a million different directions before I even sit down. Instead, I’m trying to keep my desk free of everything EXCEPT the one thing I am trying to work on in the present moment. I have to say, it’s working.
Author Peter Bregman writes, “It’s much more effective to create an environment that predisposes you to do the things you want to do or don’t want to do than to use willpower." Willpower, for the most part, doesn’t work. I think this is also why it is so hard to resist a sweet treat that’s on the kitchen counter. Put the treat away or in a container that you can’t see through and the distraction fades. You didn’t realize my focus tips would include dieting tips, did you? You’re welcome.
So here’s my focusing question for this month…
How can you create an environment at home and in your classroom where you can focus?
This does not mean you have to have a clear desk unless that fits your personality. But what is the shiny object that you can put away or remove that will make it easier for you to give full attention to what you want to get done? Or maybe it’s something you add to your environment - like simple checklist of the things you need to do when noon carpool is over. I’d love to hear what works for you.
Scripture reminds us that we do not automatically have to keep pace with our frantic, rushed, multi-tasking American culture (“Do not be conformed the the pattern of this world.” Romans 12:2) With the direction of the Holy Spirit within us, we can intentionally choose a better way. We can focus on one thing at a time because we know and trust that “He’s got the world world in His Hands.” It’s God’s job to multi-task…and He’s pretty good at it, don’t you think?