Last year, it was not uncommon for me to have five books I was reading through at any given time. I might have a writing craft book, Native studies, novel, Christian nonfiction or something I’d gotten to review or from a local author. The problem? When I had a chance to sit down and read, I had to make a choice which book to pick up. Did I want pure entertainment? Wasn’t it time I finished that one about marketing? Did I feel I could decipher my way through a history book?
Too many decisions, too many arguments, too many options.
What would I do? Pull up the Netflix app, of course, and watch part of an old movie or TV show.
Did I get much reading done last year? Yes. I read around 19 books. Not shabby, but not great for an author, either.
I was especially challenged by people who read 100 books a year. 200. Over 300. People exist who can read a book a day. How? There are a variety of ways and reasons, but I knew the answer for me. I needed focus.
I pulled out the three tomes I’d tried to read off and on for over a year. I started on one. Finished it. Took on the second one. Finished it. When I finished the third one, I wondered how I’d been able to accomplish in a month what I hadn’t in a year. The answer was simple.
I didn’t have to decide which book to read. I didn’t spend precious time and energy and creative thought my brain tends to go into when making a simple decision. Once there was no decision to be made, I started being able to consume books in gulps instead of sips. I read nearly five books in January (plus daily Bible reading and reading my own novel for editing). Multiple that by 12, and I’ll have more than tripled my reading in 2016.
When I have a spare 15-20 minutes, I don’t have to decide what I’m going to do. I pick up the ONE book I’m currently reading.
If I have a spare five minutes, say standing in a long line or waiting for the car to warm up on a cold day, I try to not mindlessly open my Facebook app. Instead, I open Kindle on my phone and read a few pages on the ONE ebook I have going.
Yes, that’s two books total, plus the Bible, that I read on most every day. That’s much less cluttered than 5-7 vying for my attention.
Focus is one of my words for the year. Focus on publishing books and creating new content. Have enough going to keep me working, but not to distraction where I stay busy but really getting nothing done.
When my brother watched the professional billiard tournaments on TV, I’d catch bits of it. I remember one excellent player in a championship game. She was known as something like the black widow. She never missed a shot, and when your turn to break came, you’d better not miss a shot either.
In an intense moment as everyone surveyed the shots she had lined up, what remained on the table, what next four shots would get her to a win, she executed the basic shot at a side pocket, one I might have been able to make. Except she missed. A collective gasp went around the audience. She stayed bent for a moment, before her head dropped and whispered words came through the mic. “I’m thinking about too much.”
She lost focus of the simple task before her.
I’ve done the same. You probably have too. Missed the easy mark with the millions of distractions and things screaming for our attention each day. The opportunities. What will line us up for the next four shots? This? That? The other?
How about we focus on what is right in front of us? That one book. That one shot. That one next thing we need to do with our time.
Whether it’s reading or billiards or publishing books, focus helps us hit the mark…and take gulps instead of sips.
What are you focusing on?