For years, I’ve listened to morning radio – the news while I did dishes on weekdays, public radio shows during Saturday morning cooking and laundry.

I’ve repurposed that prime time, and more.


With few exceptions, I get up between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m., check e-mails, write/edit, and do the rest of the morning routine. Then school and errands. Home to eat supper and grade papers, do newspaper/magazine phone interviews, or work on Seasons projects until bed at 7 p.m. Weekends are for cooking, cleaning, laundry, lesson planning and church.

I like to work and I don’t have children at home now, so these hours suit me. But I would like some time for exercise and a festival or concert once in a while.

So far, the best way I’ve found to capture more productive time during the day is to turn off the radio. I use routine dishes-and-cooking times to think, jot down ideas and reminders, and strategize.

Not coincidentally, the classroom virtue for this past week was Focus. (For more about the Virtues Project, visit It’s great.)

I’m learning by necessity to eliminate the static – the annoying “crackling or hissing noises,” as one definition reads, of extraneous information in order to focus on more important things.

It’s not just the radio. It’s also the occasional loop of second guessing and worrisome thoughts. Did I do enough, say the right thing, remember everything? What’s going to happen, are we okay? Why?

Constructive reflection informs and heals; the rest is useless crackling, hissing distraction. Worse, left to run wild, recurring negative thoughts are demoralizing. They immobilize, pull us away from our purpose, and steal gratitude and joy from the present.

In certain seasons, it takes practice to focus on the positive and possible. If necessary, my friend Gwynne told me to say No! out loud to negative thoughts. It works – stops the loop long enough to reset my focus.

Is your time crowded with noise, neutral or negative? Do you have a radio, or app, or job to turn off? Something to correct or forgive and then let go? Find ways to make helpful choices for your attention. You will transform your waking hours.

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