My brain is too big!
How good are you at keeping focussed on a task? Do you find yourself easily distracted during the day, with unfinished jobs becoming a source of personal guilt? Those of us in Christian leadership often feel like we are under siege from countless disparate priorities, all claiming to be number one, and without focus we can end up flitting from a bit of one task to a bit of another, which just leads to frustration. Human beings like to complete things; it makes us feel satisfied, so if we end each day with a longer list of things to do, and tasks unfinished, it can be quite disheartening.
I read recently (whilst trying to research something quite different) that those who are easily distracted from the task in hand, may in fact have ‘too much brain.’ I was feeling rather encouraged by this, and about to show the article to my wife, when a little further on, the article suggested ‘those with a greater volume of grey matter may indicate a less mature brain, perhaps reflecting a mild developmental malfunction.’ This theory would seem to fit with the observation that many children are more easily distracted than adults. I was no longer feeling quite so encouraged!
So how can we better focus as leaders, especially if like me you have a big brain? Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, reminds them of the need for self-discipline even though they have freedom in Christ. He urges them to ‘run in such a way as to get the prize’ (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) which to me suggests having a clear focus.
I have begun 2017 with a renewed determination to be more focussed in my work; to complete tasks and improve my personal productivity. Allow me to share something of what I am trying to employ on daily basis until it becomes a personal habit.
- Every day before finishing work, I try to write down between three and five things that I plan to get done the next day. I try to limit these to things that are important and urgent, and which have perhaps been causing me some anxiety.
- I then seek to rank these, from the highest to lowest priority.
- The next day, before I open any emails or check my messages, I spend time in reading scripture and praying. If I don't start with this, invariably it becomes lost in my day. I have even resorted to diarising it as an appointment to ensure nothing else is booked over it.
- I then begin working on the highest priority task identified the previous day, and endeavour to work solidly for at least a couple of hours on this. I put my mobile to airplane mode, switch off all social medial and email, and let those around me know I am not to be disturbed. I have found the pattern of working in 25 minute bursts, followed by 5 minutes stretching, getting a coffee, helpful for my ‘big brain’.
- I only move onto the next task when I have completed the first.
For me this structure seems to work, but of course you may have some other helpful habit which you use. It is perhaps not so important what discipline you use, but more that you follow it daily. Focus does not last, but neither does having a shower, which is why I need to do it daily.
Everyone watches the leader; so, if like me you have a ‘big brain’, let us covenant today to model priority setting and focus, so that others begin to emulate our good habits, not just our bad!