Focus on the Flame

Candle wick burning.Image via Wikipedia

It is 12:56 am and I'm about to go to bed.  We started school last Thursday and as you can guess, I'm not only in the throes of getting my students started but with one in elementary, one in middle school, and one in high school this year:  I'm in the throes of helping my kids get a good start to the school year.

With things so busy, it can be hard to focus, so I've got a little trick going that has helped me at home.  My daughter's JV cheerleading squad sold candles this year, and so I got stuck with about 10 candles of various colors – I usually feel guilty about burning candles, but I decided: what the heck, I'll go ahead.

A Candle for Each Area of Focus
So, I've designated each candle for something.  My favorite candle is purple and I have it by the easy chair in the den — when I'm doing my Bible study I burn it.  Each candle means something:  green when working on my finances, a pink one when doing things to take care of the family, White Tea for planning Flat Classroom, and a purple one for doing things that are creative and a beautiful Amber candle for when I'm taking “me” time to focus on beauty!

Now, how would this help me focus?  Well, I'm petrified of leaving a candle burning without supervision — I have cats and kids and those and candles don't mix well.  So, I light the candle to keep me where I need to be until the job is done.

Focus on the Flame
You see, right now, my problem is not knowing what to do – it is sticking with a job long enough until it is DONE.  It is not getting distracted and FOCUSING on what it is important to get done.  I was just feeling very ADHD-ish for a while there and this helps me focus.  You know the thing about unpleasant tasks in particular, is that we put them off or get distracted by other things – sort of a form of procrastination (we all see it a lot on Twitter ;-) Hey, I do it myself!)

But in the busy times of starting school in the Northern Hemisphere, we can be like a truck stuck in the mud – just spinning wheels and making smoke but not going anywhere.

The risk for me as a Mom right now is not focusing on my children.  I have to keep my eyes on them and I'll tell you this – I'd drop blogging, teaching, Flat Classroom – anything in a heartbeat if my children needed me.  They are the reason I don't travel a lot and they are the reason I quit a six figure job 13 years a go – I love them and they need me.

I read once that kids need their parents at four critical times of day: early morning, after school, dinner, and bedtime.  I'm the communicator in the family, so it is important that I tuck them in:  they tell me things then that I'd never hear otherwise.  They talk to me.  They unload.  Eating dinner as a family is a struggle but it is worth it, both for our waistlines and our mental health.

This is a tough place to live and my own children suffer from the distraction I often feel myself.  So, I also struggle with how I am to teach them to focus – to get things done and to do them well.

Are you focusing and getting the most important things done?
So, teachers, parents, educators, administrators — let me ask you — are you able to focus on what is important?  If you aren't, what can you do to focus?

In the Franklin-Covey planning course, they teach clearly that urgency does not equal importance and this is so true.

Burned Candles Gave Me Insight Where I Was Spending My Time
As a side effect of this candle: focus on the flame thing I've started doing, at the end of the week, I could see that I was imbalanced and not spending enough time on my kids — how?  Well, one candle was burnt a lot more than the others.  (I'm not telling.)  It showed imbalance.  And then, I also realized that I wasn't taking enough time to take care of myself (no suprise there) as my amber candle wasn't burned much.

Even if I don't do this forever, to me, focusing on the flame is a great activity to do every so often just to help myself see a visual of where I'm spending my time (and it is also cool that the house smells so good!)

So, I'm dying to know: do you have any tricks to help you focus. (I'm especially interested in those that I can use at school, since I don't want to use candles in my classroom!)

Are you focusing on what is truly important to you or are you living life under the tyranny of the urgent.  Life might need to be snatched by the nape of the neck and refocused – it is your life, after all, who is running it?  (I'm talking as much to myself as I am to you!)

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere