Working toward focus and thought

As you know, I’ve been slowly reading through Deep Work by Cal Newport.  It’s funny how many things pop out at you when you are thinking about a particular subject or person or place.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve read or heard several things to help with learning to think and focus more deeply.

My friend, Kelly, wrote a great post on mindfulness and meditation while walking here.

This past week, a local author spoke to the writers groups, which I facilitate.  He mentioned how Henry David Thoreau walked in order to write.  Emerson wrote, “The length of [Thoreau’s] walk uniformly made the length of his writing. If shut up in the house, he did not write at all.”  In fact, walking was so important to Thoreau that he wrote an entire essay on it:  Walking

Another article I read talked about taking two hours a week to think without anything other than a pen and paper.   Now that would be helpful if I could be disciplined enough to get away from phones and tablets and computers long enough!

So, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how to carve out deep thinking time, but I have yet to work it into a regular routine.  My goal is to create a schedule that allows for deeper thinking and writing over the next few months.  Now that the weather is cooler, walking is more likely to occur and slowly I am developing an early morning routine without distractions in order to think and write.  Progress is being made albeit at a snail’s pace.

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Finding My Focus Again

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that I’m not reading as much, not thinking as much, and definitely not writing as much. I could blame it on all of my responsibilities at home, work, and, until last June, home school, but the reality is that I’ve lost my focus and find it all too easy to distract myself with frivolous things.

I know that I’m not alone. Everywhere I look, I see articles and TED Talks and books discussing this problem. While they have talked about the problem, the most common solutions (take an internet break, throw your phone away, go off to the woods to a cabin with no wifi) are out of my price range or impractical or not concrete enough to help.
However, a couple of months ago I picked up a book which is helpful–Deep Work by Cal Newport. I’m about two thirds through it and am taking copious notes (alas, it’s a library book so I can’t mark it up).
I know I’m not the only person out there to struggle with focus and the ability to read, write, and think as deeply as I used to so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts as I work my way through the book. Stay tuned for future thoughts as I blog my way through the book. And, run, don’t walk, to your nearest library and check out this book. It’s one of the most helpful productivity books I’ve read.

My year in reading 2015

This year, Goodreads did all of the hard work of compiling what I read. I’m glad I faithfully added titles and dates read, even if I didn’t always add a full review.

Goodread’s Year in Books for 2015

I had set a goal to read 100 books and went slightly over at 105.  My average rating overall was 3.8, which means I was reading mostly good books with an occasional bomb.

17 nonfiction books (if I include Dante’s Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s plays in with fiction).

The rest were fiction.  Not quite as many non-fiction as I had hoped, but I find it easier to work through a novel quickly than a nonfiction book.  Perhaps this year I will be able to read at least 25 nonfiction, which would be about 25%–not ideal, but a better percentage.

I have a couple of reading challenges I’m eyeing and a Bible reading plan I am starting, both of which I will discuss in my next post.

I hope all of you had good reading years, too.  If you’re comfortable, please share how your reading year went in the comments.  I’d love to hear your experiences with books this past year.

New goals for the New Year

Knitting

One of the things I most love about New Year’s Day is the fact that it is the start of a brand new year.  2015 has not yet been lived and it is inviting me to dream about what my life can be rather than regret what I’ve not accomplished this past year.   Part of the New Year’s holiday for me, like so many others around the world, is to think about goals I would like to accomplish this coming year.  Here are just a few that are I most want to accomplish in the upcoming months:

1. Have a life that truly reflects faith and trust in the Lord.  I have noticed a lack in my closeness with God and my ability to follow after Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength this past year. I’m sure it is tied to my neglect of the disciplines of daily Scripture reading and prayer.  This year I want to re-establish those disciplines as I know that a rich spiritual inner life leads to the same richness in my thoughts, feelings, and deeds.

2. Work on my fitness routine.  A few years ago, I had a great routine going but when a bunch of new (and good) changes occurred, my routine fell apart.  A friend has started walking with me two to three days a week and we plan to continue walking this year.  We try to go 2.5 miles every time we walk.  I plan to add in some pilates, too.  My goal is to be a few pounds lighter and in much better shape by the end of the year.

3. Build writing time into my daily routine.  Ever since I read this article on writing for 20 minutes a day a few weeks ago, I realized that if I spend just a few minutes every day, I will get in the habit of writing daily.  I am reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott in which she says to sit down every day and you will eventually develop a habit of writing.

4. Reading goals for 2015.

I have a few smaller goals as well but these are my main goals.  Do you have any goals for this year?