Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One thing at a time

I think I have self-induced ADD. I don't want to take lightly the struggles of people who actually have the neurological disorder that causes attention deficit but I think I have a similar behavioral disorder and I think I brought it on myself.

I seem to have completely lost the ability to do one thing and focus completely on that one thing. (One exception: seeing clients. I have an almost creepy ability to be fully present to clients while they are sitting in my office.) I read a little bit and then remember something I have to do. I start to check email and want a snack. I start to cook but during a lull, I'll open a magazine. I address envelopes or iron or pick up clutter while I watch TV.

Almost 15 years ago, I developed a seizure disorder that required me to take high doses of a really potent medication. For almost a full year, I couldn't do two things at once. Multitasking was impossible. I couldn't even doodle while I talked on the phone or write letters during the commercials on TV. For that year, my world was very small (for half of it, I couldn't even drive.) My pace was very slow. Even the smallest tasks took every bit of my attention. I don't want to go back to that, but I do want some of the mindfulness that I had back then.

Brain-based psychological studies tell us that multitasking is really an illusion anyway. Apparently, people who think they are good multitaskers are actually unitasking really fast. The brain is not able to do more than one thing at a time; it can only do one thing at a time really fast. And people who describe themselves as effective multitaskers are actually less efficient than the plodders who do one thing at a time.

The problem with ADD (even the self-induced kind) is that it inhibits "flow," that super-creative state that we get into when we're fully absorbed in what we're doing. I need less productivity in my life and more flow. I'm intrigued by the idea the flow is the antidote to some kinds of stress. So, the new experiment is to do one thing . . . then do another thing . . . then another . . . one thing at a time.

1 comment:

Christy said...

I totally agree! I'm having a really hard time with this at work. I can't concentrate on one thing and get it done...unless there's a deadline!! Let me know if you find anything that helps!!