Laura was telling me the other day that she was going to clean out her email inbox, which had grown to . . . let’s say an astronomical level. She sat down at our laptop, opened up her email, and the first email she saw was a Kohl’s ad indicating that if she just clicked on the link, she could get an additional 15% off her next purchase.
So, she clicked.
That led to a thirty-minute online shopping experience, which then reminded her that she needed to take some returns to Kohl’s. She drove to Kohl’s only to remember that she also should stop at the grocery store to pick up a few items. While she was there, she remembered she had to run by the pharmacy. She was close to Jiffy Lube, which reminded her that she needed an oil change. After the oil change, she remembered she was originally going to Kohl’s, but then checked the time and remembered that she was supposed to stop by a friend’s house to pick up her daughter.
Later that evening, I asked, “How did it go cleaning out your inbox?” I won’t tell you what she said.
It’s easy for us to lose focus on a task at hand. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, in case we have a conversation soon, but this happens to me all the time when I’m talking with people. I try to stay focused, but what someone says often triggers something in my mind, and by the time I “rejoin” the conversation, I realize I missed half of what was said. And that’s not a good thing.
In his book, Essentialism, author Greg McKeown says it is possible to multi-task but not to multi-focus. You can do two things at once: wash the dishes and listen to your favorite tunes, text while watching TV, eat lunch while having a conversation, and so on.
“What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time. When I talk about being present, I’m not talking about doing only one thing at a time. I’m talking about being focused on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking itself is not the enemy . . . multi-focus is” (220).
To be fully present requires your full attention. This can be challenging when you’re faced with multiple tasks and obligations, and they are all screaming for immediate action. The first step to focus on the now is to stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what is most important in that very moment—not tomorrow or even an hour from now. Determine what needs your present focus, and then get the future out of your head. The future can wait while you focus on the moment.
Of course, this requires you to determine your priorities, and it should open the door to your reliance on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Are your priorities God’s priorities? If they are, then you know where to place your focus. If they aren’t, then you have an opportunity to readjust and realign.
Some personalities lend themselves better to setting priorities and staying focused. Regardless of how “scattered” you may feel you are, being fully present can help you slow down, lower stress, and enjoy the gift of time.
“He appointed Twelve that they might be with Him” (Mark 3:14).