Ever heard the phrase, “Men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti?”
According to Bill and Pam Ferrel who published a book on the concept, men think in boxes—like the separate compartments of a waffle. (Ever try to have a deep conversation with your man while the television is on?)
And women? Our minds are usually working on several things at once—like a tangled web of noodles. For most women, everything is interconnected. We are the queens of multitasking. (Betcha you’re doing laundry or taking care of little ones or working on a blog post right now.)
I usually view this ability as a blessing, but not when I’m writing.
My natural bent toward multitasking paired with countless distractions of our hyper-connected world makes focusing difficult. (By the way, remind me to pick up a hostess gift for tonight’s dinner party…)
Also, like many of you, I have more than one passion. I get fired up about writing, but my heart also beats fast when I talk about discipleship. I cry when I think about adoption and have a relentless ache to help teens process grief and loss. I bet your passions are just as varied and equally as strong.
The fact is no one is exclusively a writer. We are wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. We are homeroom moms, bible study leaders, hardworking executives, half-marathon trainers, cupcake bakers, boo-boo kissers, our husband’s cheerleaders, relentless learners, conference attenders, and so much more…
So how in the world does a passionate, busy woman stay focused?
Give yourself grace.
When I’m unable to focus I quickly feel unproductive and frustrated, which usually prompts me to give myself an angry pep talk about how I need to get my stuff together. Then, I start to wonder if I should be writing in the first place and decide I maybe I should just quit and pick up tennis instead. And that makes me worry if we have the money to pay for tennis lessons, which reminds me I need to pay my AMEX bill… Y’all, it’s exhausting!
I’ve finally learned that beating myself up is counterproductive. Instead, I practice extending myself grace. And I hope you’ll give yourself the same freedom.
Paul, in Ephesians 4:1-2 encourages us, “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”
We simply cannot love others well through our writing if we do not first extend the same humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance to ourselves. Let’s start now.
Make lasagna instead of spaghetti.
I’m grateful God gifted us with the ability to multitask, but what if we took steps to organize our “spaghetti brains” a bit?
Recently I downloaded Donald Miller’s Storyline Productivity Schedule. It’s changed everything for me. His method forces me to specifically identify and prioritize three main projects for the day. It’s allowed me to view my day in layers, instead of a tangled web of to-dos. (Lasagna not spaghetti.)
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says there is, “a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.” It does not say, everything can happen at one time. When it comes to writing, we must determine what activity our time is meant for.
Here’s what I mean: Rather than setting aside generic blocks of time for “writing,” I try to be more specific. I strive to define my time blocks explicitly—time marked for brainstorming, writing, editing, and drafting social media posts. When I’m editing, my social media ideas can wait—only editing is allowed to happen during those 30-45 minute sessions.
Organizing the blogging process into layers helps me narrow my focus, target my energy, and ultimately be more productive. When I wrap up a focused “layer” of writing time, I feel accomplished and energized. I’m ready to move on to the next part of my day. I’m free to be more intentional and present with loved ones at home and colleagues at work.
What tips do you have for untangling your brain in order to focus?