When I feel overwhelmed in a situation, the worst thing I can do is keep pushing myself into it. Instead, I need to break the hyperfocus and calm my mind. Five minutes of breathing and meditation does wonders for the anxiety that comes up when I’ve simply taken in more information than I can process.
My instinct when this happens is to hold all the information in my mind and attempt to sift through it immediately. This is my ADD brain’s fear that if I don’t do it now, I’ll forget something crucial. In truth, though, if I do it now, I’m likely to miss something amid the mental noise.
A better approach is to:
– Write down key points (just enough to jog my memory later – I don’t need to make a formal memo)
– Bookmark where I am, be it online, in a conversation, or in an actual book
– Take 5, close my eyes, breathe in and out, and focus on my inner chaos being lifted like clouds clearing from the sky.
After such a break, I come back to the situation refreshed and with newfound clarity – without having agonized over it a bit.
Contrary to its instinctive belief, my conscious mind doesn’t have to hold onto everything at once; if I give it a break and take the next right steps to capture “everything,” my subconscious begins to sort it all out.
I can trust my erratic brain more than I think.
Tomorrow begins a long-awaited digital sabbatical for me, as my good friend Sam and I head off on a trail at Big Bend National Park for the Great Hiking Bonanza of 2011. We’ll be communing with nature for 4 days and some change, then spending a 5th day on the road back to civilization. Thus, I’ll be off the interwebs between now and then.
I was working on a post on calendars and the proper use thereof for ADDers, and had planned to get it out before my departure into the wilderness, but alas, ran out of time. This actually becomes a teachable moment, because I had the option of finishing – but it would have made me late for our departure. Hyperfocus is a tricky thing that way; when I (and many of us) get “in the zone” on a project, we can lose track of time/space/reality. When a time frame is unlimited, this is not a problem, and even ends up being one of the strengths of the ADD brain. I know I’ve finished some of my best work on hours-long stretches of being “on a roll.”
This goes back to the topic of my previous post on differentiating between urgency and importance. Leaving the house on time was both urgent and important; finishing the post was important, but not urgent, and ultimately took lower priority.
Moral of the story: When hyperfocus strikes, take a step back and ask: Is this urgent, important, both or neither?
Have a great week! See you next Monday.