Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Focus and Collaborate (Fokus dan Ber-Kerjasama)

Written by: on April 2, 2024

In the beginning, I thought David Rock’s book, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long[1] is yet another book that I have to read one sentence three times so that my brain can capture the outcomes. I felt this way because the title of the book says, ‘Your Brain at Work.’ I am thinking, how many more rules must I remember and how many approaches must I learn to be in the game.

Over the past two weeks, amidst juggling a full-time job, academic paper writing, family commitments, Easter celebrations, and Sunday sermons, I have experienced mounting pressure. My mind has been consumed by an ongoing internal dialogue. Additionally, last week, I spearheaded an automated procurement improvement initiative at work, drawing from Tim Harford’s book, How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers, an exercise from week five assignment [2]. This automated enhancement process was executed over an eight-week period. The comprehensive journey involved resource allocation, strategic planning, process mapping, procedure creation, job aid design, drafting FAQs, and culminated in a successful Go-Live. Kudos to my manager and the project team for their contributions in supporting me!

Upon reading Rock’s book, I experienced a relieved sense of validation—an affirmation of the challenges I have encountered over the past few weeks. I dare assert that Rock’s work stands out as one of the most pragmatic and captivating reads, I have encountered this semester. Its departure from conventional business literature adds to its allure, making it a refreshing departure from the norm.

My three main take aways out of my current state of mind are, ‘juggling five things at once’[3], ‘stay cool under pressure’[4], ‘the power of focus’[5] and collaborate with others.[6]

Juggling five things at once, reminded me of Martha who was distracted with all her household chores, then Jesus said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things…” [7] I realize the more I take on, the more I become overwhelmed and anxious. I took on the procurement improvement project without thinking it through, and out of excitement. In addition, like Martha, I did not ask for help. I have a good manager and teammates, but I did not want to admit that I was overwhelmed. I learned that moving forward, I need to think through my own timeline, map out my load of personal and professional tasks at hand and my mental state before taking on a project with a short timeline.

Staying cool under pressure, reminded me of Nehemiah who was summoned to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. To be summoned to construct a high-profile construction project must have been overwhelming. Nehemiah kept his cool and prayed throughout his calling to rebuild the walls. He called out the way he was feeling (sad).[8] As for me, I called out my emotions and lift them up to the Holy Spirit. Similar to Rock’s recommendation,

  • ‘practice noticing emotions as they arise to get better at sensing their presence earlier,
  • when you sense a strong emotion coming on refocus your attention quickly on another stimulus before the emotion takes over
  • practice assigning words to emotional states to reduce arousal once it kicks in.’[9]

Like the Psalmist said, ‘When my hear is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.[10]

 The power of focus, “Be still and know that I am God.”[11] Especially, when juggling multiple tasks, it can be challenging to focus. Rock challenges his readers to be aware.

  • “Identify your most productive times of day.
  • Create a conducive work environment.
  • Minimize interruptions.”[12]

Collaborate with others, Jesus and his disciples exemplified powerful teamwork. Despite challenges this table city became a strength speech disciple contributed unique insights and abilities.[13] Jesus did not go it alone; He intentionally formed a team of twelve disciples.

  • “The capacity to collaborate well with others has become central to good performance in just about any endeavor.
  • Problems that occur between people could be reduced if there were a wider understanding of some of the basic needs of the brain
  • Create shared goals with people you feel you might be in conflict with.”[14]

Coffee table, ‘What is this book about?

Using a scenario of Emily and Paul, two career minded couple tackling their workdays, Rock offers readers how we can better organize, prioritize and process the number of activities and the amount of information we encounter daily:

  • “Juggling five things at once is not productive, it takes our focus aways and the outcome is not always productive.
  • Difficulty keeping cool during intense moments. Practice noticing emotions as they arise, to get better at sensing their presence earlier.[15]
  • Tips to train the brain to think differently, for example, to refocus and pay full attention to complete one important task.
  • The book encourages collaboration, to connect with others first and find a common goal.”[16]

[1] David Rock, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, Revised and updated edition (New York, NY: Harper Business, 2020).

[2] Tim Hartford, How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers. (London, UK: The Bridge Street Press, 2020), 51-53.

[3] Rock, 42.

[4] Rock, 99.

[5] Rock, 226.

[6] Rock, 153.

[7] Luke, 10:40-41

[8] Nehemiah, Chapter 1

[9] Rock, 118.

[10] Psalm 61:2.

[11] Rock, 118.

[12] Psalm 46:10.

[13] Corinthians 12:12-17.

[14] Rock, 153.

[15] Rock, 118

[16] Rock, 172.

About the Author


Shela Sullivan

Born and raised on the vibrant Penang Island in Malaysia. "Mari Makan!!" — a cherished Malaysian greeting that reflects the warmth of shared meals. Since 1996, I have called Oregon, United States, my home. I enjoy the raindrops and the serenity of its beaches. The ocean connects me to nature and energizes me. I hold Bachelor's in Business & Marketing from University of Phoenix, Master's in Spiritual Formation from George Fox University and Congressional Leadership (Lay Pastoral) Certificate from Dubuque Theological Seminary. I work as a Category Manager for a power utility company and serve as an ordained Presbyterian Traveling Pastor. My aspirational career goal is to become an inspirational speaker. I reside with my husband, David Sullivan, and our fur-baby, Rolo. Our shared passions include traveling, exploring diverse cuisines, home improvements and classic cars. Favorite Bible Verse: Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. ~ Psalm 37:4 ~

8 responses to “Focus and Collaborate (Fokus dan Ber-Kerjasama)”

  1. Noel Liemam says:

    HI, Shela, I like the way you express yourself through your post specifically about the project that you undertook. By the way, congratulations on the project. You mentioned concentrating on a certain task at a time while using the phrase ‘juggling five things at once.’ Is that because when you were juggling five things you still focus on one of them at a time? Thanks again for your post; it is very informative.

    • mm Shela Sullivan says:

      Hi Noel, thank you for reading my post.
      Yes, you are right I was juggling five things while still focused on one of them at a time. 🙂

  2. Adam Cheney says:

    Great job on incorporating a lesson learned into the real world and your job. You mentioned juggling five things at once. Is there something that you might try tackling early on in the day when the dopamine levels are still high?

    • mm Shela Sullivan says:

      Hi Adam, thank you for reading my post.
      I am a night owl, So I am always one night ahead of my deliverables, but the past few weeks has been overwhelming.

  3. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Shela,

    I totally relate to the last few weeks being chaotic. I liked what you wrote about staying cool under pressure, especially reframing a negative emotion to something positive before the negative can take over.

    Have you had any chances to practice this yet?

    • mm Shela Sullivan says:

      Hi Christy, thank you for reading my post.
      Yes, very often I walk away, I do not answer email right away, I do not react at that instant. I pray about the conversation / situation. Days later I would revisit the situation or the person to settle it. I have been practicing this for few years. Perhaps that is the reason why I liked reading this book.

  4. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Shela, You are such a gifted person. Congratulations on the successful project and, I like how you incorporated it into your post this week. Were there times during the launch of this project that you needed to utilize some of the techniques that Paul learned were useful with his collaborator?

    • mm Shela Sullivan says:

      Thank you, Diane, for your kind words. Yes, something similar:
      Autonomy: Allowing team members to have some degree of autonomy within their roles, which kept them engaged.

      Relatedness: Fostering a sense of connection and camaraderie among team members. Building relationships and understanding each other’s perspectives.

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