Friday, March 11, 2011

How to Stay Focused In Spite of Missing Children, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis

By Christine Clark
It was a rough morning. My friend’s 15-year-old stepdaughter has been missing since Tuesday evening and the news is not good. I was teary-eyed and scared last night and several hours this morning. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan put an additional bleak spin on the day. Predictions of a tsunami racing toward Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States produced an even bleaker outlook.
On mornings like this, I am tempted to sit at the computer in constant search mode, looking for news of my friend’s stepdaughter. I am lured toward Facebook to check for updates. News sites reporting on the devastation in Japan and possible devastation in Hawaii, California, and the states on the U.S. West Coast beckon me. I click there, and there, and there. Rarely does the television provide background chatter for my day, but CNN and NBC supplied me with commentary, video, photographs, expert opinions, predictions, and up-to-the minute reports on the world.
I am self-employed and the temptation to immerse myself in news gathering, searching, and social networking is hard to resist most days, and particularly difficult on a day like today. Did I give in? I did, even as I knew I had no power to do much of anything about any of the dire situations—the missing child or the earthquake/tsunami. How much did I give in? Not too much, because of one thing I have in place—a routine. On days like today, having a routine is of paramount importance. If I want to have any balance in my life, I must take charge and step away from online news, Facebook, e-mail, and even the telephone. It’s hard, because I want to know and perhaps even be the first to know what is going on with my family, friends, and the world.
Superseding my desire to know, to be in that flow, are the daily things that anchor me. I have a schedule, but not an etched-in-stone schedule. It is flexible, but details the essentials to maintaining balance in my work, family, and personal life. Among those essentials are journaling first thing every day and getting dressed. I am more focused and conduct myself in a more professional manner when I ditch the sweat pants and wear a nice shirt and a pair of not-too-faded or dated jeans. My routine centers on work during typical banker’s nine-to-five hours. Later, the evening’s responsibilities beckon me. I also have a short list of the things outside work that I must do to keep in balance. I keep that list on my bedside table.

My list is not all-inclusive, but notes what is important to me. I have tried rigid schedules and they just do not work.  I do not write down things like do the laundry, feed the pets, do the dishes, get the coffee ready for the next morning, because tasks such as those are set on autopilot.
Each morning, while journaling, I also make a to-do list that highlights the day’s must-do items. Today’s list kept me on track because I wanted to meet with a new writers’ group this morning. I considered skipping the meeting, sitting at home, and festering over my friend’s child and the rest of the world’s woes. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to be aware that missing the meeting would have a negative impact on the rest of my day and other aspects of my life. I said goodbye to CNN and NBC, turned off the computer, got ready for the meeting, and went on my way.
When I returned from the group, I noted that my absence from the computer and the TV screen had no effect on what had happened in the rest of the world. However, my few hours away had a positive effect on my personal world. I didn’t give into the temptation to stay home and monitor the world and it carried on without me. More important, I carried on. Because of that, I can be a more supportive friend and family member to those who might need me today and those who might need me more in the days to come. The world in which I walk in Central Florida is not now affected by any natural disaster, and I am grateful. Like those who prayed for Floridians when they suffered the devastation of the hurricanes several years ago, I will pray for the Japanese people. I also will keep at my routine, stay grounded, and attempt to retain my focus because it is the only way I can have the smallest amount of control in what often seems a random, chaotic world.

How do you maintain control? What methods do you use to step away from the temptation to constantly connect yourself via social media, online news, or television news? How do you create balance amidst the chaos and random nature of modern life? Do you have a "Feel Good Every Day" list? What does it include? What would you add to my list?

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