I find it hard to stay focused sometimes. This is nothing new. My 2nd grade teacher wrote on my report card that “Ronald daydreams all day long” and it’s easy to get lost in whatever catches my attention at the moment. I suppose it’s a mild issue of attention deficit. My office desk–its wooden surface unseen for 18 months–reflects this. There are books piled up from last week’s sermon preparation, old bulletins, a stack of various denominational hymnals, minutes of recent church meetings, a menu from a local restaurant that I’d like to visit, folders from a project I worked on last summer, junk mail that hasn’t yet been sorted or pitched, and, quite possibly, remnants of a recent brownbag lunch. Don’t judge me.
I have to say I’ve adapted over the years, and I can concentrate and get things done. I’ve learned to prioritize and focus when I need to. I find it much easier with technology that’s available. I wish I’d had a laptop in college, instead of the clunky (though electric–I’m not that old) typewriter on which to write last-minute term papers. I wish I’d had a cell phone when I was in my first pastorate in a country parish and frequently on the road. So I appreciate those things that make life easier today. My calendar, my primary organizer, is now online and available whenever I need it, as long as I’m at home or in the office. I have an online “to-do” list that I check off regularly. I use my cellphone to leave myself messages.
I’ve been eyeing the newer “smartphones” that have internet access, contact lists, GPS capability, and calendar programs all included. I’ve envied my brother’s iPhone, and I’ve been watching the launch of the so-called Google “Android” phone. They are shiny little objects that command my attention, and they can do wonderful things. The phones and service plans are beyond my budget, but I know if I just wait a few years, they will be cheaper and by then the smartphones will come equipped with the ability to do my laundry.
Meanwhile, I’ve found some tools that are working great for me, so I thought I should share them. I’ve been using a free service called Dial2Do which lets me use my ordinary cellphone to:
- leave reminder messages for myself. Whatever I speak into the phone is transcribed into an email and sent to my inbox, whether it’s a work-related note or something to add to the grocery list.
- add events to my calendar or listen to what’s already on the calendar for a given day.
- listen and reply to email messages through my phone while I’m away from the office.
- add mileage or other tax-deductible items to an expense-tracking program called Xpenser.
- send a text message or email to my kids or any of my contacts through the phone.
Of course, the trick is that I have to do something with those messages, reminders, and events when they show up in my inbox. Google’s Gmail and Calendar work well for me, so I can quickly label and sort priorities. The calendar program emails me my schedule every morning, so I haven’t missed any important events. (We won’t talk about late-ness.) Those who know me best might say the online calendar and the GPS gadget in my car have really helped. And I feel less lost and frustrated.
Technology itself can be frustrating. When it works, it’s great–but it doesn’t always work. I get very anxious if internet service is down. Still, it’s helped me connect to people and events better than I have in the past. I’m just waiting for that laundry help.