More and more, it feels like my greatest battle is against distraction. The unexpected phone call. The “quick question” that turns into a 45 minute conversation. Social media. Email. Checking out houses on Redfin even though we aren’t in the market. Gossip. A few texts. Breaking news. Netflix.
It all adds up and there are days when I wonder if I’ve really accomplished anything. Busy? Definitely. Tired? Absolutely! Productive? I’m not sure. Connected to God? I know He’s with me but I don’t seem all that aware of His presence.
I know Jesus isn’t intimidated by the chaos of my life. I know He isn’t running scared. I know He doesn’t stay home sipping coffee while I go to work. I know He’s with me. He promises that in His Word, “I am with you always.” (Mt. 18:20) He’s not the problem. I am. I loose sight of Him and get focused on a thousand other things.
For me, the battle for focus starts long before the sun is up. I’m learning the more I connect with God in the morning, the more He shapes the chaos of my days. I know how simple that sounds. But I also know there’s a huge difference between “doing my quiet time” and connecting with God. I can have a really well structured quiet time and totally miss God. It happens more often than I would like to admit. I power through a devotional book, journal a few thoughts, read some Scripture and pray a few rote prayers. Quiet time done. God missed. And then there are days when those same raw ingredients combine to create a beautiful encounter with God. His voice is clear, His presence is real, His love is almost tangible. Most of the times, the difference is found in my expectations – power through or slow down and meet with Jesus?
When I slow down and meet with Jesus in the morning, He’s so much easier to see throughout the day. He’s there helping me say no, avoid distractions and do what He’s called me to do. When the unavoidable interruptions of life come, He’s there reassuring me He’s still working even though we’re off my script. He’s near and real and everything’s better.
Yes, there are ways to manage distractions. But it’s not like they’re going away. And it’s not like Jesus is going away. I’m just much more focused on staying connected with Him during the day. And I’m finding that my best shot at connection during the day is connection before the day gets started.
We can get so used to experiencing life through the screen of our phone that we forget how much better the real thing is.
To combat this, I did a little digital detox last week. No email, phone or social media for five days (with one minor exception…just to keep it honest!). I knew it would be good for my soul. I didn’t know a few of the other things I would learn. Here’s the most significant:
- After sitting out five days, it took me less than an hour to get caught up on my email, texts and social media accounts. It was amazing how many problems had resolved themselves or no longer mattered. I say all of this because I usually spend an hour a day on email. Imagine getting 4-5 hours of productivity back every week simply by checking email less!
- I found myself thinking about and praying for real people in my life more than normal. All of the attention that normally goes to people I don’t even know on my Facebook newsfeed automatically swung to people I do know and really care about. Cutting off my digital connections enhanced my personal connections.
- I was able to enjoy the moment. Technology is wonderful when we use it well. When we use it poorly, it leaves us playing with our kids, thinking about an email, wondering if a tweet was directed at us, and debating if the whole scene is cute enough for Instagram. Everyone looses, especially the kids.
So, I’m not swearing off technology. But I am resolved to use it better…and it might not be all that long before my next digital detox! Maybe you should schedule one as well. If five days seems unbearable, could you do five hours one weekend? If the answer is no, you really need to detox!
It seems like the faster our world moves, the harder it is to get anything done. Maybe I’m just particularly susceptible. After all, a co-worker once told me I had the attention span of a fruit fly. But I don’t think I’m the only one. Our world is increasingly littered with distractions. There’s always something trying to pull us away from the truly important.
I’ve realized the only way to accomplish my goals and be faithful to what God is calling me to do is to wage war on distractions. I need to consciously, systematically and brutally battle against them.
Here’s just a sample of the distractions I’m warring against these days:
- Email. I only check it at three designated times per day.
- Facebook and Twitter. Two designated times per day for these.
- Mindlessly surfing the internet. I use Google Chrome as my browser and Stay Focused to limit my amount of time online.
Here’s some distractions I’m trying to avoid all together:
- Unresolved conflict. It’s hard to be productive with a low-grade conflict grinding away in your mind. The Bible is on to something when it says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” (Eph. 4:26)
- Gossip. Why are you wasting your time with someone who has nothing better to do with theirs than gossip? (Prov. 20:19)
- Comparison & Envy. Shouldn’t we be so busy doing what God told us to do that we don’t have any space to worry about why and how He’s using someone else? (John 21:22-23)
There are a number of practical strategies to fight each of these distractions. Most of them involve removing temptations from your situation or removing yourself from a tempting situation.
But what really works is focusing your heart on something greater than these petty little distractions. You were made by God. We’ve been given the privilege of knowing Him, relating to Him and being used by Him. He’s given us work to do and fruit to bear. Focus on that and all of the sudden distractions seem to matter less.
Your call. You can spend all of today on your Facebook newsfeed envying people you hardly know who are on vacation or you can plunge yourself into everything God has for you today. You just can’t do both.