Multitasking versus Focus

I have always been someone who has a lot going on inside my head. I seem to constantly be thinking of a thousand things at once. I used to think it was funny that I could be having a conversation with someone, talking about one thing, then all of a sudden start talking about a completely different subject, “restarting” a conversation that may have occurred any time between five minutes and several weeks prior.

I started thinking about this recently, as my boss – with whom I share an office and thus feel like I’m getting to understand/observe quite extensively – commented on the fact that I started talking about something completely out of the blue and that I needed to first present the context of the conversation.

My boss seems to have good focus. He is a creative mind, and thinks he is easily distracted – because his phone is constantly drawing his attention with important calls and emails – however if you observe his listening skills, he is extremely attentive. If you start talking to him, he will literally turn his whole body to face you, put his hands on the desk together in front of him and make direct eye contact with you to listen and respond accordingly.

I, on the other hand, have ten million things going on in my head at once. Movement on the computer screen, my phone lighting up, people making noise outside the office or even searching for documents/notes people are referring too whilst they’re still talking to me, draws my attention. When I try to go to bed, I’m running through my day, making todo lists, scolding myself for not getting enough done in the day, thinking about working out, thinking about body image, wondering if my ex and I could have made if had some circumstance been different, evaluating what that comment really meant from my grade three teacher I ran into a few months ago when she said I look nothing like she’d have expected and feeling embarrassed over an awkward comment I made to a guy who didn’t respond in a way I predicted.

This is very much the curse of my generation. We are glued to our little handheld devices and are so used to having everyone in our pocket or palm for 24/7 communication it almost feels like evolution is about to start making humans be born with a smartphone at the end of one arm instead of a hand.

I think perhaps this is my greatest flaw. You begin to realise these things about yourself when you start your career. To me, this is an enormous flaw of which I need to work on. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s gotten to a point where I’m even distracted by my phone while I’m driving. I seem to lose chunks of time or have these almost “washing over” feelings of presence in my own body every so often when I’ve been too aloof for too long. It’s like I “wake up” even though I’m already awake.

Today I started to research some articles about improving focus. I find myself skimming them and flipping back between each tab, replying to a message on my phone and making tweets about how articles on focus shouldn’t be so long as obviously the people reading them have the attention span of … well, me.

Don’t get me wrong, when I get in the zone I can be completely switched on to the task at hand. I’ll start writing something creative or working on a project on the computer and if I’m inspired or interested in the project I completely tunnel focus on that thing. So much so, that my boss has had entire conversations with people in the office, asked my opinion on something in the middle of their conversation and I literally have no idea what they’re talking about, because I blocked everything out.

The biggest issue for me, is that I would like to choose when I can focus. I feel like I have a lot of anxiety and energy running through my body. Working out helps. It seems to expel some of my energy. When I’m not wearing myself out with physical activity however, I’m constantly in a state where I cannot sit still, have trouble keeping eye contact with people and cannot pay attention to read long articles or books. I have an insane amount of energy coursing through my body.

This is definitely one of the major things I want to work on this year. I’m going to start with some meditation, get back into my exercise and fitness, and have technology black out times. All things that I’ve always wanted to do, but never really can seem to find the time…

Now if you’ll excuse me, my phone notification light has been flashing insistently at me for the past ten minutes and it has taken every ounce of self-control I have to finish typing this before I check my Snapchat.

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