How to Focus in an Age of Distraction: Make it a Good Summer [10 Things to do Before you Click {Printable}]

There are finally robin’s nests and irises blooming.

And mud ringing the laundry room tub like a mess and the clocking ticking and the faucet loudly dripping.

We turn pages. We get turned around.

Somebody stubs their toe. Somebody is held. Somebody holds on.

A screen flickers. Yeah, there is only so much time.









{10 Things to do Before You Click: Print one for every screen? Make it a screensaver?}



 The thing is — 

Sometimes you want to read a book when you should be making dinner, check Pinterest instead of pin another load of laundry on the line, clean the bedrooms when you could be connecting with the kids.

The thing is: Habits are hard but they make life easy.

The thing is: There are no habits without the habit of being focused. 

The thing is, it’s what Phelps said: Stay in the pool.

Michael Phelps said that the way he trained to be one of the greatest athletes of all time — was to stay in the pool longer than anyone else.

To stay at it when everyone else got out. To stay focused when you’d love to be distracted. To do the next thing when it’s not the easiest thing. To not flip over to Facebook or turn on the TV or check Twitter or pop into email.

The most successful are the ones most focused and the greats are greatly focused. There is never any fruit without focus.

At breakfast, I tell my teens the research I read:

“So, a study at The British Institute of Psychiatry showed that checking your email while performing another creative task decreases your IQ in the moment by 10 points.

This decrease is the equivalent of the effects from not sleeping for 36 hours—and exhibits more than twice the impact of smoking marijuana.”

Joshua shakes his head, spoon of cream of wheat in hand. “Wow.”

Littlest Shalom pipes up from the end of the table. “I’m good, Mama. I only check my email once a month — really!” Her eyes look bigger than her bowl. The Farmer chuckles, reaches over to squeeze her hand.

That’s right, Girl.  
Spend the rest of the time running through the woods and climbing the apple trees in the orchard and tasting the sky.
Fill water balloons. Read books in the hammock. Sit near campfires and poke the embers and let your laughter rise to the stars.
Focus on making a life, on getting a life.

In the evening, I can hear a son urge a brother downstairs: Stay. in. the. pool.

The children and I, we work at marking time by pomodoros. Make it a habit to time all screens with pomodoros. The habit of focus comes into focus.

Our oldest’s putting away his homework when I lean up against a door frame and ask him, “So what do you think they’re suggesting the new currency is in this “age of distraction” ?”

I ask him because he loves to unpack things. I ask him because he reads and thinks. I ask him because we all have to figure this out.

Caleb shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know.. the new currency…” He slides his economics book into his bag. “Paypal?”

“Not bad.” I grin, kid always with a tongue-in-cheek answer. “They’re thinking that: In an age of distraction — the real currency is attention. In a world of Facebook, it’ll be about who can focus. Whoever can pay attention — buys the advantage.

Everyone who lives with screens and multi-tasking and multi-tabbing knows it:

In an age of distraction: The itch to switch can give your life a rash.

“So it circles back to….” he looks up at me, looks like his focused father: “Stay. in. the. Pool.”

Yeah — that. It’s the modern day equivalency of Charles Dickens’ words: “He did each single thing, as if he did nothing else.”

I want to tell Chesterton:

God is strong enough to exult in monotony — and one needs God’s strength to exercise consistency.

To consistently step back, breathe deep, focus — and know Life is dessert — too brief to hurry. Too delectable to be distracted through. You don’t wolf it down.

Life isn’t an emergency. Life isn’t 20 open screens and one flickering attention span. Life is a gift. Crazy grace.

And this, this is the only way to slow time:

“When you fully enter time’s swift current, when you enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, you slow the torrent with the weight of you all here.

You only live the full life when you live fully in the gift of this moment.”

One Thousand Gifts

When I sit in the haloed light of the hallway, kids tucked in and me reading another chapter of The Hobbit to a row of open doorways, I can feel something like peace.

Yeah, there’s laundry still to be folded and the mudroom sink needs an emergency intervention, but kids ate bowls stacked with watermelon and happiness dripped off the end of their chins. Rubber boots found paths and puddles and long grass.  There was time away from flickering screens because life is the flickering, fleeting glory that’s meant to be inhaled into the lung.

Simplicity isn’t a matter of circumstances — it’s a matter of focus on what matters.

There’s an open window and a night breeze.

There’s prayers after the lights are turned out. There are long hugs. There is simply now.

The virus of distraction — is cured by the art of subtraction.

In the dimmed hallway light, kids talk into the thickening dark.

Till all you can hear is the clarity of their laughter, the focus of joy.

Print For the Kids This Summer … Print For Your Own Screen:

Pick 1 of these every time before you click online:


Print out 10 Things do do before You Click (black font on white) and to print (white font on black) — print one for every screen? Share it as a screensaver for the kids?


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Resources: Great God pitcher  & Great God creamer, Trust in Him Wall Clock
The Really Practical Post: 3 Ways to Really Make New Habits
Consider what’s helpful in this Infographic: How to Have the Habit of Focus in an Age of Distraction