The Power of Focus

My #1 goal for 2012 is to slow down and find better balance in life. Why? Because balance provides focus and a more fulfilled life. 2011 was a great year, but one that was way too busy. Most of my business was a lack of setting boundaries on my part. This is an ongoing struggle for me, but one that I am committed to this year.

How about you? Do you have a sense of balance or does ministry life seem to get most of your time and energy? Do you think about ministry related stuff at home? Or do you sneak some work in on the laptop while your kids are watching a movie at the house? Out 3-4 nights a week doing ministry stuff? Near burnout or just want to slow down? If yes, read on.

Balance provides focus. Slowing down and eliminating what’s on your plate provides focus. You get less done, but focus on what’s most important. You focus on what matters most. Here’s a few new focus techniques that work really well for me. I cleared all but three icons on my Mac desktop. It helps my brain stay focused. I also downloaded an app on my iPhone that plays relaxing ambient music that I listen to as I work. Keeps me relaxed. I also get out of the office as much as possible to get work done. The beach (I am spoiled) and Starbucks are my two favorites. And I turn off my iPhone a few hours during the day, that way I can’t be interrupted.

Elimination frees up your time. The 80/20 rule states that 20% of what you do provides 80% of the results. Many of you have heard that before. But my next tip is new and a bit radical. I recommend finding out what that 20% is and eliminating the other 80% (a tip I got from the book, 4 Hour Work Week). I know, big move. But I am in the process of doing that and it really is possible and effective. For example, I used to check email 20 plus times a day. I would constantly be on top of my inbox. Now, I check it once a day – at 11am. Why then? Because I get my most important thing on the to-do list done first, before 11am. Total focus on that task, with no interruptions. Then I can react to emails, quickly and efficiently. I’ve also had to take a good look at all the projects I’m involved in and eliminate some things. A tough but necessary move.

Productivity is an addition. If you’re like me, you’re addicted to being productive. You like accomplishing things – especially meaningful stuff like pointing preteens to Jesus and building a team to do the same. We find it hard to have down time and our mobile devices feed the addiction. On top of that, we are passionate about our work. We love it, so we keep going and going. Our society as a a hole is addicted to productivity.

Productivity, like any addiction, offers immediate positive gratification with long-term negative consequences. You feel good about yourself when planning camp or a weekend service. You’re an important person with a God appointed task to accomplish. But when you overdo it, negative consequences include: burnout, depression, fatigue, easily angered, edgy, anxiousness, anxiety attacks and the list goes on.

The key to breaking the addiction is to realize you’re addicted and replace the bad habit with a good one. Good habits include: journaling, reading a good book, taking walks during the day, having lunch with an old friend and so on. Whatever it is that recharges your battery. Do it often.

Balance offers a more enjoyable life. The key is balance. Work but then rest and play. The benefits include: better focus, deeper focus, less stress, more fulfillment and better appreciation. Life is sweeter and richer when you slow down. You see and feel things you otherwise don’t. You really enjoy a good hug from your six year old. You notice the many colors of sunset. You focus on your wife’s words with a new clarity.

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Over twelve years ago Nick Diliberto lauched a preteen ministry with a handful of volunteers and about 25 kids. Over the years it grew to over 100 kids and has impacted hundreds of young people's lives. Nick is the driving force behind, Children's Director at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, workshop speaker and author of an ongoing preteen column in Children's Ministry Magazine.