For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)
The above excerpt from Ecclesiastes has been on my mind this week. It’s been on my mind because I typically get very passionate about something and then I stick with that one thing, becoming obsessive. This isn’t always a bad thing, as it allows me to make a lot of progress very quickly. The issue with this is that I have a variety of goals. I have a goal to grow this blog and my Facebook page. I have a goal to make my department at work the benchmark of the world. I have a goal to finish my MBA. I have a goal to write a book. I have a goal to be in better shape everyday, and I have a goal to be a better father and husband every day. As you can see, it’s not the best idea to go after one and forget about the others. It’s not like I should put off being a good father and husband for a year until I get around to it. In fact, I have to achieve all of these goals at the same time. The only one of those that could possibly be put on hold is writing my book, and the longer I put that off, the less likely that it ever will be completed, which has given me a sense of urgency.
As many of you know, I attempt to write my goals down every day, and typically I make tasks to take action on those goals practically every day. I noticed that I had taken action on everything except becoming a better husband. I told myself that eventually I’d get around to it, and that the other improvement I’ve been working on helped my wife indirectly as well. That was a bit of a cop out. Truthfully I had been pretty lazy on that goal, and it’s a very important one to me. If you’re like me, you probably have more than just one goal, and you’ve been struggling to balance them as well. Well, I finally had gotten around to working on being a better husband, and I started listening to Capture Her Heart, which is a book about being the husband that my wife really wants. When I was listening to the book in my car on the way home, I had a bit of an epiphany. I needed to be laser focused on what I was going to do next. I needed to learn how to shift gears before getting into the next goal that I was about to work on, and I think I figured out a decent way to do this. First and foremost, you need to do the following two things:
- Recognize the need to be in the moment – Ultimately the goal of everyone should be to be present. Be where you are. We’ve all seen a couple out for dinner who seemingly hasn’t spoken one word to each other, but it seems they’re having an intimate dinner with their phone. It takes some serious discipline not to do this. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take small steps to be present and check your phone less. I’m definitely not the best at this, but I’m getting better.
- Recognize that the moments will shift frequently – The longest time period we have to focus on one thing is at work. You likely get a few four hour chunks of time to work (with constant interruptions from emails and co-workers, and customers), however after that you’ll have a commute, family time, and after the kids go to bed I’ll get an hour or two with the wife. The next morning I usually am working on something and working out before I go to work again and repeat. These changes happen everyday so we need to be able to quickly shift our focus back and forth.
Ok, so I know I have a hard time switching between work, relaxation, and time with family and friends. How can I do this better?
All of the following recommendations involve balancing your intake (reading or listening) to the time that it makes the most sense for you. I typically have a small amount of downtime between shifts to a new focus. I used to just get one book and read it straight through. This is fine, as it helps me to stay laser focused on that idea, but I noticed it doesn’t keep the most relevant things at the top of my mind when I need them. As I’ve said before, I listen to a lot of books. Changing what book I listen to in the right moment has been making a huge difference for me. It just takes a little planning to make sure that you have a book or podcast ready so you can quickly switch back and forth. Some of the following list is obvious, like listening to more upbeat music when doing cardio, but some of it may not be that intuitive. Check out the list and let me know if you have anything to add to it:
- On your commute in to work, listen to something that pumps you up. It could be music or a book. I like to listen to self-improvement books that are productivity related. This fills my mind with ideas on how to do things better before I even start the day. It sets the tone for staying on task all day and accomplish the things that need to be accomplished most.
- On your commute home, listen to a book about being a more patient parent or better husband. This will help mentally prepare you for entering your home and transition your mind away from work, into focusing on your family. I just finished Capture Her Heart, and I’m currently listening to If Only He Know. Both are books that help men understand their wives, and help us become better husbands. I used to think that reading books about marriage and parenting was kind of feminine, but I realized that I was making actionable plans to obtain all of my goals except the goals related to being a better father and husband. For me, it’s time to elevate those goals to the top of the list, not the bottom where they had been previously.
- Before/during your workout, listen to some music that pumps you up. Music is also a great tool for focusing while doing mundane tasks at work as well. If you’ve never tried listening to music when working out, I’m guessing you need to workout more, because this one is pretty much a no-brainer. If you have tried it and for whatever reason didn’t keep it up, I recommend making it part of your routine.
- Before socializing with an old friend – Read or listen to a book about listening techniques. I have a hard time being a good listener, so this is important for me to do. The book Just Listen is a good one for this. I never truly knew how terrible of a listener I was until I read that book.
- Before you go to sleep – Listen or read a book that relaxes you, or that you find enjoyable. This time should be kind of a free time for you to pick what you want. Obviously a book that pumps you up may not be the best choice at this time. I know many people read fiction before they go to sleep to unwind. I’m not into fiction, but you need to do what works for you.
- Other times – Listen to nothing and read nothing. I’ve noticed when I try to overdo audio intake I feel a bit overwhelmed and stressed. There’s a time and place for everything. Life is typically about balance, and you need to know yourself in order to get this just right.
- Execute on your mood that you’ve created – You’ve done all that you’ve can to put yourself in the right mood to focus on the goal as it came up, now be disciplined and get it done. It can be hard to focus on the moment that you’re in, but as time goes on we’ll all get better at it.
Some of you are probably laughing at me, because you figured this out a long time ago, but some of you probably haven’t figured out how important it is to switch what we’re reading or listening to during the day. In reality, the goal of this post is to encourage us to live in the present. Too often we live lives of distraction, never truly being focused on what we’re currently doing. I believe that by switching what we intake at the right times will help us become much more focused on what’s in front of us. It’s been working for me, and if you try this or have done this, please let me know how it has worked for you.
I hope this post gave you a little to think about. As always thanks for reading and remember to be great today!