This past week I listened to an interview with Maura Thomas.
Maura has a long career in teaching individuals and businesses how to be more productive and more effective by controlling where they focus their attention.
It was obvious to see why her advice would be helpful in any work place … but as I listened to her speak, I couldn’t help but think that as a parent, this woman’s methods have a lot of wisdom to offer.
The most impacting statement I heard Maura say was,
“The ability to focus is our most valuable resource.”
Time isn’t my problem. I just think it is.
I think, “If I had more time, I could get more done. I could take care of my health, have a cleaner home, start a new job, take up a hobby, or devote more quality time to my partner and children.”
But the truth is, we all have the same 24 hours.
When I feel totally bogged down with overwhelm and stress, it’s likely because I’m not focusing my attention in the way I should be. I am living in distraction.
It has little to do with my time.
Our phones are always a great (and painful) example.
I can’t tell you how often I set out to clean the kitchen, take my kids to the park, get some writing done, or watch a movie with my husband and because my attention gets divided between my goal and the notifications going off in my pocket, I’m either not present or my chore takes twice as long.
Devoting my entire attention solely to the thing I’ve deemed as most important in that moment, genuinely helps me be more present and even more effective.
We know this, right? I’m actually better off committing to only 15 minutes cleaning my kitchen without pause than I am working on it for an hour, but stopping multiple times to dole out snacks, answer texts, and find my spouse’s keys.
Now, with young kids, there are times when divided attention is just inevitable. But fighting to regain control of that attention is crucial to feeling more peace and less scattered.
We seem to love to brag about how many things we are always doing at once. But studies actually show that multitasking isn’t even real – your body can technically do two things at once, but your brain can’t.
That means when I’m cooking dinner and talking on the phone, or driving and putting on my make up, or working while hanging out with my kids, my brain is actually switching back and forth continually between the two tasks- and neither thing is getting my full attention.
Which means the quality of the things I’m doing is lower than it could be.
I personally appreciate understanding how my brain works a little better. It explains why I find it so hard to juggle multiple things without extreme frustration.
You’re not failing if you feel this way, too – and you can use this information to try and block your attention whenever it’s possible to do so.
Devote chunks of time to only focusing on one thing whenever you can.
You will feel less scattered, more at peace, more present, and you’ll accomplish more.
As moms, it can feel like the whole world is fighting for our attention. There’s always something or someone interrupting what we were hoping to do.
And giving in to the demands of children some days is the very best thing you can do. But you know why I believe that’s best, even when it feels like you’re just throwing in the towel? Because you’re putting your full focus in one place instead of trying to divide it up. You’re being 100% effective in one area – even if the dishes aren’t getting done.
There will be seasons where the days seem so long, and you will feel you can’t muster any time for anything other than keeping your family alive.
But I would encourage you to look for little windows. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to drive to the store alone, to stop and get a coffee on your way, to linger in the parking lot and have some prayer and self-reflection in the silence. Or to take a long bath with a book after everyone else is in bed. Or to get up early a few days a week to take a walk or do some yoga.
Trying to squeeze those things in when your focus is required elsewhere is difficult and it’s also not very effective. It’s better to balance it out. Take moments for you, so you can then give your best to them.
I know these new methods are going to require practice. But I also know a day will come when my family will demand less of me. So for now, I’m going to try to create more moments every day where my attention belongs only to them.