How to Untangle Your Brain And Focus

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Leeks and Fresh Tomato

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?

Broken Pieces From the Past

Broken Pieces from the Past

But that’s what stinks about the parts of us that are broken and hurting. We try our best to keep all the pieces and shards gathered and contained, and we trick ourselves into thinking that they’re not affecting other people.

Eventually, though, our need to feed what is broken starts to overpower everything else, and those hurting places make us careless and reckless. Before we know it–and sometimes after it’s too late–we look around and see that the people we love the most have been wounded in the collateral damage.

This quote really stuck out to me in Chapter 4. And I think this tells me a lot about myself and some of the issues I face today because I came from a broken family. My parents split up when I was six years old and I have felt the ripple effect of that for years to come. That’s the reason The Rink was such a place of refuge for me. That’s when I got to see my dad. On the weekends.

My husband feels it and so do my children. There’s just no way around that type of change. Some people are better at [appearing] to hold themselves together through it all. That’s me.

But after awhile, an unraveling begins to take place that you cannot stop because it’s been piling up for years. It shoots out like a hose, all over those you love. It’s hard to contain once it busts out.

Now, I wasn’t a child of 70s, so I couldn’t relate to everything Sophie shared from those years, but I used to watch That 70’s Show and that helped me be able to nod at some things. ;)  Still, a few things did carry over to the 80s, such as the telephone lines being connected and your parents being able to listen in on your conversation using the phone in the other room. Yes, remember phones with cords, and dials?

I love how Sophie’s book invites us to remember these things together! I don’t know about you, but I’m having a blast! Her telling is helping me remember.

Do you ever have people do that? When they talk about something and it reminds you of your own “something”? Isn’t community a gift? Truly.

She mentioned in chapter 5 (her list of activities) that she enjoyed perfecting her royal blue mascara and it reminded me that I used to wear a smokey blue mascara. It almost looked like a chalky color. That stuff was all the rage, though you wouldn’t be catching me wearing that now. In fact, I don’t wear much of any kind of make up now! I rarely have the time to put it on!

If you have read chapter 6, you probably died with [sympathetic] laughter at Sophie’s experience with a tanning bed. I wanted to just reach in the book and give her a hug! Or a pat on the head so I didn’t hurt her! She’s such a brave soul to share such a sensitive part of her life that none of us would have ever known had she not been so bold to share! If you haven’t read it yet, take my word for it and go read it.

What one moment do you remember from growing up that has shaped who you are today?

Home is Where My People Are

The Very First Step to a Focused Life

The Very First Step to a Focused Life

Many of us are familiar with the old adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none” because we feel it correctly describes us. We know how to do many things with average ability, but lack the skill to do any one thing unusually well.

Our social lives tend to follow this same trend, though we’d describe it in different terms. With friendships, we aren’t a “Jill of all trades,” instead we lament that our circle of friends stretches a mile wide but only an inch deep.

Concerning our schedules, our calendars are so littered with appointments, activities, and obligations, we’ve become rushed, frazzled, and unable to focus. We are running, shaky and out-of-breath, and we are ready to collapse.

How do we begin to change?

The question is imperative because we can’t continue in this same approach, being rushed along with the current of our culture, allowing life to simply happen to us.

How do we begin to change? How do we begin to live a focused life?

I am asking myself these same questions because how many times have I lamented my overwhelmed schedule and my distraction-led life?

Ever since I was a little girl, my grandfather reminded me of a very simple concept — “Ordinary ability, when focused, excels.”

His wise advice applies to far more than skills and talents. Every time Grandpa shared this wisdom, he spoke to the power of a purposeful, focused life. One that starts, first, with seeking the Lord.

“One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Do you want a focused life? A purposeful life? A life that doesn’t settle for ordinary but excels and sparkles with the glory of God? Seek Him first.

"Ordinary ability, when focused, excels." {Dr. George Sweeting}

Spend time in the Scriptures. Pour out your heart to God in prayer. Listen for His voice, and walk obediently in faith. He will lead you. And as He does, trust Him in the process and the place He’s chosen.

When you are following God’s lead — not what everyone else in the blogging world is doing, not what your best friend is doing, not what the mentor you so admire is doing — when you do what God leads you to do, you will not miss out. You will not get left behind. You don’t have to worry about measuring up or becoming a success.

On those days you’re worried you’ll never “make it” because your role as Mom is more than a full-time job, trust God to be faithful with the few.

Trust HIM to “build your house” — to establish your legacy, protect your reputation, build your ”platform” — while you’re faithful with the few to whom He’s called you.

We can lie down and sleep because it is the LORD who sustains us. Our ambition and success and accolades and social network will not sustain us. The Lord does.

There is rest, not striving, when we are faithful in the places God has called us.

When you’re feeling off-kilter and lopsided, ask yourself:

  • How is my relationship with the Lord? If I’m not spending time with Him by reading the Bible and praying, I must start here because everything else in my life stems from this. Once I am growing and abiding in Jesus, I move to the next question.
  • How is my home? What is the state of my relationships with my husband and kids? Am I letting obligations, distractions, or any other pastimes impede my relationships with my family? Am I living distracted, consistently missing opportunities to really see and hear them? Repeatedly sidetracked from the time we can spend together?

Once those two questions are settled, we can pray through our other obligations and priorities. We’re not striving for balance, we’re seeking a rhythm, and that rhythm feels much more fluid when those first two priorities are in order.

As we seek God, He will show us where to focus our time, energy, talents, and treasures. Will we obey?

Will we trust Him in the unseen, unknown, small places? Will we walk obediently — focused on Him? Seeking Him? Trusting Him with the results?

We have the time. We have the resources. We have all that we need to seek the Lord. What’s holding us back?

Asking, seeking, knocking with you,

Erika

erikadawson.com

Overcoming Focus Deprivation.

anorexic

“You’re not an anorexic but your life is.”

Words spoken to me over 12 years ago by my therapist. While that may seem like along time ago to you it seems like yesterday to me. They have never let me go. Those words are thankfully etched into me. I may not have an ink tattoo but I have a verbal tattoo.

You see I had been put on medical leave from ministry and forced (yes, by lawyers) into intensive treatment for what was being labeled as anorexia. The “why’s” of it all still don’t make sense to me but if it was only to hear that phrase above I will take it.

At the time I would have called my life chaos, hectic, or crazy. Sound familiar? I was doing all that I could to simply survive each day and was attempting to please a bunch of people at my work place who were seemingly disappointed in me no matter what I did. An odd place to be for a girl who tried to never do anything wrong.

But the truth is my life was starving to be lived. In my reality I couldn’t see it and there was zero focus on what truly deserved to be my priority. My forced removal from the everyday grind gave me no other choice than to discover what living looked like. What does living look like to you?

In my 3 month leave I took myself on retreats, visited an old chapel covered in stain glass weekly, went to jewelry making classes, enjoyed seminars, walked around in my bare feet, journaled, played with pastels, took myself to the movies, sat outside at coffee shops with my lap top, made friends and attended church. I behaved as a human being rather than a human doing and it was life giving.

“The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance.” John 10:10

When you think about focusing in on what it means to live life with joy and abundance what comes to mind?

What would you need to change so that could be your reality?

Eleanor quoteI know self care can feel selfish. But have you thought about it from God’s perspective? When we remind ourselves that God is looking down seeing His daughter it flips things. He sees a daughter that He loves, cares for and desires to see living life abundantly. And how can that be possible if you are bogged down in zero care for the person who He created? So as you head into the weekend what is one thing you can do that will give  you focus surrounding who God has called you to be?

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