November 10, 2014

Focus and Deadlines

By Trina Bresser Matous

Seven years ago, I was asked to write a series of notes to accompany my church’s read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. I agreed and began a project that was bigger than I realized. Each week for the next two years I had a deadline to turn in 8 pages of material. As I worked my way through week after week’s writing, the two most helpful things for me were focus and deadlines.

I can easily distract myself with all kinds of things that need to be done eventually. Somehow I would choose to do them when I should be concentrating on writing. I would write a sentence or two, then look at a favorite website, check the email that just came, or see what the weather would be like for next weekend’s outing. Then I’d go back and write another paragraph or two before checking another email or getting a snack. Never mind that I just finished eating 20 minutes ago! I have never figured out if I was procrastinating or distracted. In either case, I was not focused.

To help keep my focus where it should be I learned to eliminate as many distractions as possible. One distraction is the computer itself. There are so many sounds, notices, banners, and badges that tell me when emails arrive, texts are received or Facebook messages are posted. It is easy to get caught up in things calling for my attention, but not needing an immediate response.

I have turned off almost all of the notices and now check for emails, texts, and posts when I’m ready rather than when they want to call attention to themselves. Another distraction is the phone. I had to learn it was OK for me to not be immediately available to whoever happened to be calling. With caller ID I can be choosy about which calls I take immediately and which I let go to voicemail.

I discovered I work best when I have a deadline. How many projects have I started but not completed because “one day I’ll get to it”? With this project I had a recurring weekly deadline. There was no question about what had to be turned in when.

Bringing focus and deadlines together, I learned to set specific amounts of time to write. On a day I felt particularly distracted, I might write for 30 minutes, then take a 5-10 minute break before writing for another 30 minutes. On other days, when my concentration was better, I might write for 60-90 minutes at a time. The shorter timeframes helped me maintain undivided focus.

As I paid attention to more than just what I had to write, I learned the factors that ensured I was able to get the writing done and ultimately accomplish a goal I might otherwise have thought impossible. Are focus and deadlines important to you? They may not be, but you may find there are other areas you need to change in order to create the best environment to write.
Trina Bresser Matous is a passionate Bible teacher and writer. For over 20 years, she has shared Biblical truths in compelling and memorable ways. She is involved in her church as a Bible study leader and a member of the Restorative Prayer Team, which strives to bring healing dialogue with the Holy Spirit to the hurting parts of people’s lives. She is the author of the Christian Living Bible Study Series. Its first book, Paul’s Letters to the Early Church, released September, 2014 and its second, The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude,  released in October 2014. She lives in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan with her husband.
You can connect with Trina on the following sites: Twitter: @TBresserMatous

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