Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Scatterbrain - treatable illness or personality quirk?

If you're a regular reader, you know that I was recently diagnosed with ADD. I've been somewhat flaky and scattered my whole life but it wasn't until I was working in a large law firm that was not the right place for me culturally that it became a huge problem for me. Until then I had always managed to keep things together enough to get the job done. I was pretty good at what I did. Also, the fact that I'm a nice person who gets along with pretty much everyone helped a lot when I needed people to cut me slack for my lack of organization.

I was taking medication to "control" the ADD but frankly, it didn't work all that well and it's expensive especially when you include having to pay to see a psychiatrist every month just to have them write the prescription. Once I got my Reiki attunement, I felt that I no longer could tolerate taking medication for my ADD. I needed to figure out if this is really an illness that should be treated or if it's just part of the weirdness that makes me who I am. For better or for worse. If I were to get a full-time office job again, I would need to be medicated in order to function sufficiently. Does that mean there is something wrong with me or does it mean that I probably shouldn't have an office job? For now, I'm going with not getting an office job.

It's all well and good for me to accept myself for who I am. I'm cool with not having an office job. However, I need to pay the bills somehow. With no sugar daddy in sight, I have to do something that people will pay me for. I'm thrilled to be trained as a Reiki practitioner. I love the essential oil products that I'm starting to sell (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: In fact, check out my website here if you're interested in buying some fabulous oils and aromatherapy products!) I'm enrolled in massage therapy school that starts next month. So I've been moving - slowly - in the right direction in terms of giving myself a way to make a living that doesn't involve an office job. However, I'm finding - much to my dismay - that if I'm going to be successful as my own boss, I still need some semblance of organization and structure. Currently, my days are rather unstructured and to say my stuff is disorganized would be a HUGE understatement. Clearly, something needs to be done.

Yesterday, a Tweet from @starbucker caught my eye. He linked to this article in the NY Times about the over-use of technology and how it's affecting our brains. Multi-taskers (like me) will argue strenuously that multi-tasking helps them get more done in a day. But studies clearly show that when we try to do more than one thing at a time, our performance suffers. In addition, some of us are simply addicted to the stimulation that our gadgets provide us. The more we try to do with our gadgets, the less we're able to concentrate on getting things done.

This is really embarrassing but I'm going to tell you anyway: right now I have two browser windows open. One of them has 15 tabs up and the other has 14 tabs. I also have two Word documents, a PDF and Outlook open. Oh, and Tweetdeck which supplies me with a pop up every time one of the 163 people I'm following has something to say. God forbid I should be without my constant Twitter chatter. Of the browser tabs, four are Facebook pages, two are email accounts I check regularly and three are Blogger so I can write this post. All the others are basically stuff I started to read but didn't finish or want to read later or opened when I clicked on a Tweet I don't remember clicking. One of the Word documents is the flyer that I need to finish so I have something to hand out at my Reiki presentation thingy on Sunday (if you're in Chicago you should totally stop by!) The PDF is one of the worksheets from Awesome Fear Wrangling. I started reading it the other day and never finished it. I really, really want to finish it. I want to jump into all of it. And the Question the Rules. And the Firestarter stuff that I bought but haven't started. I still have legal documentation for my business the needs to get finished. Plus I have to get my accounting records straight so I can make sure to pay the right amount of taxes. Do you see a pattern here? I actually tried to write this post yesterday but I was too scattered to get it done. Funny, but I'm totally not kidding.

Now I could give you all kinds of excuses. Even though it isn't my custody week, I'm staying with my ex and the kids because he's out of commission with a severe calf muscle injury. I had to get the kids to and from school. I had to make sure my ex got food and stuff. And I spent hours in the car yesterday taking him to Costco to buy fruit for his store. (Yes, I just happen to be a really nice ex wife). And we had to spend some time arguing because that's what we do best. But if I'm being honest with myself (and you), I could get a lot more done if I wasn't so scattered. I check my email wayyyy too many times during the day. I spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter. I read a lot of blogs and other websites (which I really enjoy doing and learn a lot from but still, too much time). But like the guy in the NY Times article, I get distracted by random headlines and Tweets that are of no use to me. I tend to significantly underestimate the amount of time I spend playing games and goofing around on the Internet. And in times of stress, I'm also drawn to computer games when that is the last thing I should be doing.

I am trying to write 2500 words a day which takes a chunk of time but some days I feel like it's a waste if I'm just writing stream of consciousness stuff. If I'm spending that kind of time to write, shouldn't that writing be somewhat useful? Every once in awhile stream of consciousness is good because it can unveil thoughts and feelings that were otherwise kind of hidden. But usually it's just crap. Because part of my business is online (or at least I want to be able to make some money online), I need to write and be connected through social media. And I like doing that. So some balance is necessary between just writing anything to get 2500 words so I can say I did it and actually writing something that's worth publishing. As important as the online writing and connecting is, there are still "real world" things that need to get done and the online stuff can't always take precedence. (Ok, just got distracted by an email that popped up that I didn't need to read right now but I did because "Ooooh, look - shiny things!")

After all this, I would love to say I have the answer for how to keep myself from getting distracted from the task at hand. I don't. But I guess I'm hoping that by recognizing it, and writing about it, I've acknowledged that it's an issue. And I can start to figure out what I need to do - short of medicating myself again - to bring a little more focus and organization into my days without crushing my very fragile creative spirit. I do have some ideas of things to try which have worked with varying degrees of success in the past. To give myself a little structure for this blog for the next week or so, I'm going to try a few things and let you know how they work.

What about you? Do you ever have trouble focusing? What do you do to help get things done when you're feeling scattered and pulled in a thousand directions? I'd love to hear your strategies and your advice!

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