Saturday, May 12, 2012

Focus ... Where can I get some of that?

I wanted to talk a little today about something that is significantly impacting my creativity and productivity lately: the inability to focus.

And for those of you who love irony - I sat down 2.5 hours ago to write this post, and in my quest to find a couple of pics for this post, started surfing the web, jumping from topic to topic, page to page, and 2.5 hours later - here I am, starting the post.

I wanted to do a little internet research on the subject before I posted, and quickly learned that "inability to focus" is synonymous with "inability to concentrate," at least as far as Google and the posts that I read are concerned. But, to me, there is a subtly nuanced difference, at least insofar as the difficulties I am finding with my own problems focusing.

I have never, ever had a problem concentrating - I grew up in a loud, loud house, with many distractions, and was one of those kids who always watched TV while doing homework. And when I set my mind to a task, I can tune out everything, including hunger, thirst, and potty breaks, in order to get it done.

As many of you know, awhile back I had this brilliant idea to attack my "Zombie Projects," one at a time, and get them finished. I chose the Iolite Fringe Necklace as the first Zombie to attack. There have been some speed bumps along the way, but I am finally making some positive progress on this necklace. But it is slow, slow going. Because I can't seem to focus on it. I'll work on it for 10 minutes, then wander (either mentally or physically) to something else - web surfing, TV watching, dog-playing, customer-helping, and even - brace yourself: vacuuming. What is my problem? At this rate, I may never finish this necklace, and therefore never get to start anything fun!

And there, I think, is the rub. Fun - this project is not fun. There, I said it. It was bright and shiny and new 5 years ago, and now it is an obligation. Don't get me wrong - I love it, and it will be a beautiful necklace when it grows up; I just want someone else to do the work. LOL. I'm so over it. It sits on my workbench, staring at me, mocking me - I leave it out because it takes so long to set up, plus if I were to put it away, I don't think I would ever get it out again!

While doing my web research this morning, I read that these are some of the major causes of inability to concentrate (the Google synonym for focus):
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Major Depression
  • Distractions (especially in today's "plugged-in" society)
I don't believe I have suddenly come down with ADHD at the tender age of ... the age I am today. And this isn't depression. And yes, there are plenty of distractions - but that's not it either (seriously? If I am opting to vacuum or clean the toilet over beading, there is a larger issue at hand!)

The guilty culprit in my situation, and one I feel was largely ignored in the material I read this AM, is BOREDOM. Lack of interest. Yep - I'm pretty sure that's it. So, how do I deal with this? Have you ever been faced with a situation where you HAD to finish something, but just couldn't find the motivation? What did you do? I'd love to hear from you!

Fortunately, I didn't set a time limit on completing this necklace, or I would feel like I had let myself down, and I am surely my own harshest critic. But I DID insist (to myself) that I could NOT start any new (bright, shiny!) projects until I finish this iolite fringe necklace. (Except for paid custom orders - those always have priority!)

I saw an article on this morning on how being sleepy and drunk are great for your creativity. A boring, boring article, that I couldn't even finish, so I don't know the gist of it, but I'm pretty sure that "get drunk and stay up late" isn't the answer I'm seeking.

I wish this was the answer, but it's not!

So - if you are still with me (and where else would you be?!) - read on. I DID find a couple of interesting links and some info I want to share, (including information about a free e-book) - maybe this post will help you if you ever find yourself unable to focus.

Some of you probably know that I am a bit of a geek (OK, I'm a major geek.) So I found this link to be extremely interesting: it provides a fascinating summary of the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology involved with multitasking, and offers some helpful tips (it also tries to sell you a book, but you don't have to buy or click anything just to read the information). And while the topic of this whole link (multitasking and distraction) is NOT the problem I am suffering from - the information was still interesting!

Apparently, multitasking make our work 50% less valuable, and makes it take 50% longer to finish. Plus, it’s actually physiologically impossible for the brain to multitask, because when you are multitasking, you aren't really doing multiple tasks at one time - you are just rapidly shifting your attention from one task to another. And this makes you (and your brain) less effective and less productive.

Some of the suggestions to improve your focus and productivity (all followed by ways to help you implement them):
1) You can't start concentrating until you've stopped getting distracted. Followed by some ideas on how to remove some of your distractions, or at least compartmentalize them so you can focus on the task at hand.

2) Just do ONE important thing each day. When deciding which task is the important one, ask yourself: 1) Does this really need to be done, or is it just busy work?, and 2) Can I delegate it? (Would that be nice - I TOLD you guys I need a cabana boy around here...)

3) Break big tasks down into mini-tasks, or mini-goals.

3) Be smart with your time. 

4) Practice object-based motivation - reward yourself for accomplishing a goal/mini goal. (For example, in the case of my iolite necklace, I could set a mini-goal of finishing 1/2 of the necklace, and then let myself watch a movie when I finished)

5) Get interested: if your attitude towards a project swells with interest, intrigue, and passion, concentration will be astonishingly easy. Well, yeah. This is where the article fell apart for me - no helpful tips on how to spark that passion! Oh, well. Still an interesting article.

I also found this, friends: A free (FREE) e-book on how to focus in this age of distractions. You don't have to sign up for anything, or even submit your e-mail. Just click the link, and it's yours. I have mine loaded on my iPad, and hope to read it tomorrow (my day off - yay!). If I am not distracted my my latest obsession, Pinterest, that is. LOL

So - I have diagnosed and elucidated my problem, but not solved it. Here's the plan - I am going to try to work 2 hours a day on this iolite necklace, but not be upset with myself if I don't. One day, I will finish it. But I resolve to quit beating myself up about it. And if I'm no closer to being done by this time next week, I may ease up on myself even more, and start one of those gorgeous bracelets tutorials I bought last weekend from Smadar....I am drooling with anticipation, here....

In summary...

If you have a suggestion about how to get excited about something you dread, please share!


Halinka said...

It seems-we have a similar problem: where this FOCUS we could get from much of it:-))
I feel,cannot advise You,but I have found a little 'cure' for the lack of the FOCCUS:
I am making little,separate things now,called'beaded beads'.Fine,colorful,small-so I can always take the break,whenever I feel the need.Each of it is different color,so the work over them is not boring.Nobody 'chases' me-I can make it in my own time and what it's going to be like?-I do not care-I think-somehow,they'll be matching one another:-)If not-it will be also funny:-))
Thus,I do not have to FOCCUS very much,as those beaded beads are easy to make-the technique repeats all the time.I only have to FOCCUS on colors-to match them a little.
I think,if You're trying to FOCCUS by force-there will be nothing like that,because all our organism is so constructed,that in some cases will do accuratelly oppose to this,what we demand from ourselves.So,do not 'shout' at Yourself-take the beading job,that do not demand so much FOCCUS:-)
Waaaarm Hugs-Halinka-

Sweet Freedom said...

That's a good idea, Halinka! I could try beaded beads, which I have never done, or work on some other "small" project just to redirect my energies. At least I would be getting something done!

dreaminofbeads / SAS Jewelry Designs said...

I love that first pic...thanks for the e-book info.