If you are like most leaders, you face daily distractions that can pull you off the important priorities.
People, projects, and problems clamor for your time. It’s not that you don’t want to give your time, but you can’t say yes to everything and everyone.
Discerning the difference between a distraction that derails you, or a “divine interruption” isn’t always easy.
Someone may “stop by” during your day, and God has a special encounter in mind. How do you know?
That discernment is a big part of leadership. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in the moment.
Knowing how to focus, and focus on the right things at the right times is essential. Without intentional focus, your progress, and therefore overall effectiveness decreases.
And of course, there are the distractions that we do to ourselves. One of mine is email.
I’m a Type-A driven person, and I’m pretty fast with email requests, so I find myself thinking, “Well, I am going to handle this email at some point, so why not just knock it out now?”
None of my mentors would be thrilled with that approach! The problem is that I’ve allowed someone else’s priority to take me off my priorities, in fact, things I’m responsible for.
That doesn’t mean I don’t care about a person’s email request, or don’t want to help. I really do. It means I need to focus on the right things at the right times.
One of the first steps in learning to overcome the constant temptation of distraction is to know what common distractions look like, so you can be proactively on the lookout.
If you know what’s coming, you have a better chance to resist.
7 Common Forms of Distraction:
(Which ones eat your lunch?)
You may receive phone calls with great opportunities for “extra” ministry, and that can be good! But if you say yes to all of them, you’ll never hit your big objectives.
And it does distract you from what you really want to achieve. I wrote a full post on worry, and you can read it here.
Taking the Easy Road
Do the hard things first. Financial analysis is not my fastball, and I don’t enjoy a lot of that kind of detail. But it’s important for me to stay focused and get it done rather than jumping to something that’s easier and or more enjoyable to me.
If you skip your day off or get too little sleep because of overworking, you lower your energy level, challenge your health and decrease your ability to focus.
For example, allowing other people to give you their problems to solve. Help the right people solve their problems, but you can’t carry everything that comes your way.
For example, jumping from project to project without finishing any of them is a time waster. Social media without any personal guidelines can be a huge time waster.
Are you clear on your calling? Do you really want to be at the church you’re at? If you’re not sure and have a divided heart on the matter, you are not serving yourself or the church well.
A 3-step process for increasing your focus:
1) Set your direction
I love the quote that says: “If you chase two rabbits, you’ll catch neither.” Pick a rabbit!
What is your vision? Where is your church headed? Where do you want to go?
Maybe you’re not the senior pastor; perhaps you are the student pastor or a volunteer small group leader. The question is still relevant. Where are you going? Where are you leading your group?
If you are part of a multi-site church, where are you going together? Alignment is key. Decide together where the team is going, and relentlessly focus on that direction.
When you know the direction you intend to pursue, then you can get laser-focused on a strategy to get there.
The same is true for your personal life, for your family, even for a hobby. Set your direction.
You can’t do everything, choose wisely and focus.
2) Commit to your decision
It’s not uncommon for a church or a specific ministry within the church to set a direction, but then change their mind in a short time.
Changing your mind is not the problem, (unless it’s a habit). Sometimes you need to change directions.
Here’s the typical scenario.
You set the direction, and it doesn’t go as easy as you thought. You hit some speed bumps and experience a setback. Then you receive some advice or attend a conference where a leader told you about how their church grows by leaps and bounds.
You were inspired, and his or her vision and plan sounded like it works better than yours, so you change your mind and change your direction.
The problem is that you didn’t focus on your plan long enough to know if it would really work.
The truth is that most of the time it’s not the vision and direction, or even the plan that’s the problem. It’s the leader’s lack of ability to stick with that plan day after day and make it work. Allow me to be blunt;
Making a decision is about commitment. Your vision and direction are probably good, stay focused and watch your effectiveness rise.
3) Leverage your drive and discipline
Once you know where you’re going and you’ve made a decision of commitment to stick with it, you still need daily drive and discipline to arrive at your destination.
Your personal drive as a leader taps into your passion.
Remaining focused on something you don’t care about is difficult. It has to matter to you. You need to really care.
What you are doing has to matter so much that it makes you willing to say no to other things, to stay focused on your commitments and priorities.
Your drive is like the engine of a car, and the fuel is your passion. Discipline is the ability to stay on the road and not get distracted with side roads that take you off course.
Daily discipline doesn’t suggest mechanical drudgery.
You need time to rest, play, work on new and improved, and be creative. You can do all that while staying focused on what you want to accomplish.
In fact, use your creative side to dream how to improve your current plan and focus on it, not drop it to chase another rabbit.