In the movie “UP” Doug the dog suffers from Canine Attention Deficit Disorder. A running gag is . . . “squirrel!”
I thought about “Squirrel!” when I read the following in an article by George Miller in my illustrations file:
“One morning in the late 1940’s a farmer decided to plow the south forty acres. His tractor needed oil so he started for the barn to get it. On the way he noticed that the pigs needed feeding. Near the corncrib was a pile of sacks, reminding him that the potatoes were sprouting. On his way to the potatoes, he passed the woodpile and remembered that the kitchen stove was burning low. While collecting the wood for the stove he saw one of the chickens was sick, so he put down the wood and doctored this hen and checked the others. So by the end of the day, he still had not oiled the tractor or plowed the south field.”
I wonder how many times our day goes something like that. We know we need to make that phone call, go visit the hospital, send a note, talk to God about a need or a wish, spend time with the family, or some other relationship building event, but there are multiple fires to put out. An unexpected call, something you heard someone say on the radio that you want to research, that political discussion, that . . . SQUIRREL . . . gets in the way!
How can I minimize distractions?
I must admit, I am not the best at this. I can easily find squirrels to chase. I made it through school before ADD / ADHD came into the limelight. There were students who struggled paying attention and certain “applied” discipline many times helped refocus those strugglers. Some of us – yes “us” – learned quickly to sit still, not talk incessantly, and at least pretend to pay attention. We learned to multi-task by playing mental games, while listening or taking notes. Sometimes we were successful and other times not. I wrote my share of sentences, “I will not talk in class unless called on by the teacher.” I had student – teacher conferences the “coat room.” I suffered for those conferences at home as well.
I shared that so you know that I understand distractions. I had to learn to minimize them. So what do I do to stay on tasks?
- To Do Lists: Lists are my friends. I have one permanent list on my PC Desktop via “Sticky Notes.” It is a list of what I must do each week. I have a second list on a notepad that I can customize each week / day. There is certain felling of accomplishment when I put a check or “x” by a task.
- Routine: I have to establish a routine. I am not obsessive about a routine, it is flexible, but I have both a daily and a weekly routine. There are certain things I do each morning, like this blog, and thing I put off until the afternoon. There are weekly self-imposed deadlines to have sermons and Bible Classes ready. I think you get the picture.
- Remain Flexible: People come first! There will be an unexpected event, visit, or phone call. It is a priority to take care of what needs immediate attention, especially when those needs involve fellow Christians or those seeking Christ. When I return to the study, I will check my list and see what needs my attention. What deadline is the nearest.
- Schedule Time to Pray: I do not have “Pray” on my to do list, but I do have certain times during the day when I will find a quiet place in the building to talk with God.
- Avoid Media. This includes “social” media, TV, online news, etc. I keep a library of real books so that I can turn off the screens and their distractions and look at a text or comment in black and white on paper. I still outline on a note pad before keyboarding into document file.
Maybe you always make it to the barn, oil the tractor, and get the field plowed. Maybe you don’t notice all the squirrels. But for the rest of us, maybe these suggestions help.
What helps you? How do you stay on – hey look, they are doing road construction outside my window . . .