414 | How to Focus Despite Distractions (Janice Campbell)

414 | How to Focus Despite Distractions (Janice Campbell)

Show Notes:

As parents, it can be tough to stay focused through a day of homeschooling or working from home. Here are a few tips to help you manage some of the most common distractions that can keep you from getting done the things you really want to do.

About Janice

Janice Campbell, a lifelong reader and writer, loves to introduce students to great books and beautiful writing. She holds an English degree from Mary Baldwin College, and is the graduated homeschool mom of four sons. You’ll find more about reading, writing, planning, and education from a Charlotte Mason/Classical perspective at her websites, EverydayEducation.com, Excellence-in-Literature.com, and DoingWhatMatters.com.


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Show Transcript:

Janice Campbell Hello and welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Janice Campbell and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we don't pretend to have all the answers to all the homeschooling questions. It is our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ that you may seek his counsel as you train your children in the way they should go. Parents, here's a riddle for you: Homeschoolers love them, enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twin books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins series helps you teach your children about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the Golden Rule, and so much more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at TuttleTwins.com/homeschool. And now on today's show.

Hi, I'm Janice Campbell. I'm so glad you stopped by today. I'm planning to talk about distractions, but I just had one. I put my water glass on the corner of my desk, and then I knocked it over all over my desk. That's a kind of distraction that's pretty easily avoided by not putting your water glass in a bad place. But that's really not the kind we're going to talk about today. So no matter what you're trying to accomplish, whether it's planning a lesson for your homeschool co-op, working from home, or just trying to create a creative project or a letter to grandma, I'm going to guess that you're besieged by distractions of one kind or another. I certainly am. Now that my boys are grown, I have fewer in-person distractions, but that doesn't mean that it's easier to focus. On the contrary, I have to struggle mightily to immerse myself in a task long enough to get truly good work done. Learning to focus can be a lifelong task, but I believe that when we help ourselves to become more focused, we have a better understanding for how to help our children focus. I think it's important probably to clarify here that when my boys were young and we were caregiving for my grandmother, I had many interruptions every single day. But those interruptions aren't the kind of distractions I'm talking about here. Caring for family is a privilege. Even when it's hard, even when it's frustrating, which it definitely can be. But the distractions I'm talking about here are the largely avoidable kinds of distractions that steal time from things that are more important.

So whenever you need to complete a project, whether it's writing a paper, sewing a costume for your child's co-op play, or planning a new garden, whatever, it helps to know how to focus. Because I'm a visual-verbal thinker, I even have a reminder—the word "focus" is in eight inch high metal letters on a high shelf directly across from my desk. My husband's a machinist, so he made it for me because I need that reminder. Anytime I'm at my desk, it's easy to waste my prime working time on the wrong things. I find myself getting sucked into little administrative tasks, or answering little brief emails that will only take a minute, but they usually end up fragmenting my focus and taking longer than expected. Those things can be done in the fragments of time that remain after truly bigger, important tasks have been done. Beyond that, the most challenging thing for me is that most of my work is done while staring at a screen, and that screen is a gateway to what seems like a billion distractions. I can be in the midst of writing an article and find myself momentarily stuck. If I stay on the page and actually focus on the word choice or other sticking point, I can usually move past the stuck point fairly quickly and make progress on the task. I've written a lot in my lifetime, but if I find it that hard to stick to writing when I get stuck, I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for our children. And I will add that there are times when getting up and moving around is the best way to get past a stuck point, but that's usually best for when the sticking point is something big. Something like trying to craft a perfect thesis statement or a plot move, or select compelling supporting points. Word choices and mechanical questions or small things, they can usually be dealt with by staying put and focusing, or even consulting a writer's handbook. For me, the temptation to use the stuck pause is a real problem, because what I want to do is get up and go tidy the kitchen, or work on the Wordle puzzle of the day, or switch to my email screen. And there I usually discover at least a couple of emails that could be quickly answered, plus maybe some promos for some intriguing events or sales. And before I know it, I've been away from my main task for an hour or more, and I have to work hard to regather my thoughts and get back to it.

I don't know what your temptation might be, but if your work or homeschooling requires that you or your children spend a lot of time on the computer, there are some of the electronic distractions that can be scheduled, avoided, or disabled. If you need to access email more than once a day, try to choose just 2 to 3 times a day that are minimally disrupting to your more important work. When we were homeschooling our boys, I would not check email at all during the homeschooling hours just because I would go down the rabbit hole and I would not be present to help them when they needed help. So I couldn't do that. That was just—that was me. You may be able to do that while they're working quietly on something, that's an individual thing, but my most important work at that time was homeschooling, teaching the boys. And so now that the boys are gone, grown, I'll glance at email in the morning on my phone before I go to my desk in order to see if there's anything important and time sensitive. I still work at home, by the way. That's why I have to go to the desk in the morning. But, if there's something important and time sensitive, I won't address it on my phone, but I will get to it as soon as I reach my desk and then I'll close email, and then everything else is going to wait until my first major email processing time, which is after lunch.

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Morning time for me is my most productive and creative time. And for when we were homeschooling, it was my most productive time for doing lessons. The boys were focused... Well, let's be realistic. The boys were kind of focused. They were more focused in the morning usually than the afternoon, so I tried to get as much done before lunch as possible. But remember when you give your email or other small tasks like that a specific time to do it, it won't be on your mind so much. It won't be distracting you while you're doing the other things, the more important things. Because few emails are important enough to need an immediate response, and you don't have to instantly react to every request or reminder that shows up on your screen. For me, anything that arrives after dinner or on the weekend can be seen and processed on the next work day. I do check a couple of times simply because I have, you know, business things to do, but I do try to stay off, you know, email and screens and stuff when we're having family time. It just seems like a good example for others, but also just it's something that gives me a time of peace and separation from work. It creates a time that is specifically home time, family time, personal time. And that has been a tremendous help in helping me to become a more focused and productive person. And not just productive, but creative. And it gives you time for thoughts to develop and ideas to come to fruition. And you can find yourself doing the things that you really enjoy instead of spending time scrolling or looking online at things that are interesting, perhaps valuable, but aren't really necessary. And if they're keeping you from doing the things you really want to do, it's probably not ideal.

So it helps a lot, if these things are things that distract you, it helps to turn off all of your email sound effects on all of your devices. Turn off all your push notifications except for the appointment and deadline reminders that you put in yourself. I don't let any of my apps on my phone send me notifications. I just, I don't need to know. If I want to know what the news is, I will go to my newspaper site to find out or my newspaper app, whatever. Another tip is to save social media for after the big projects of the day have been completed. If you're an online entrepreneur, pre-scheduled, you know, things like time sensitive reminders and announcements that need to go out so that they do go out without you having to specifically send them on that day at the time you want them to go out. Because looking at social media during work hours or during homeschooling hours can interfere with the times that you've set aside for those specific things, the things that really need to be done, the valuable things. Nothing wrong with checking social media at other times that you've set aside for that, you know, for whatever limited amount of time you've given yourself. But no matter what you can do or what you want to get done, no matter what your obligations are, just trying to learn to focus better and eliminating some of the easy distractions that can help you make focus happen and can be a real help for your kids to see how you cultivate the habit of focus. And it can make your school days easier too.

So set a few boundaries on notifications and, you know, just what you check and when you check it, and just see how much you can accomplish. So I am right in the season of life thinking a lot about time and time management and that sort of thing, so in the next episode, I'm going to share four brief takeaways from a book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. It has a lot in it that I found helpful for my own business, but also just in the whole context of trying to cultivate a family vision, family mission and looking ahead to what you want your children to remember when they grow up. So, I hope this has been helpful for you. Thank you for listening and goodbye for now.

Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of The Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Finally you can connect with me, Janice Campbell, at EverydayEducation.com where you'll find my Excellence in Literature curriculum, transcripts made easy and more, as well as at my blog DoingWhatMatters.com and my literature resource site Excellence-In-Literature.com. I wish you peace and joy in your homeschooling.

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