Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scrambled eggs

My brain feels like scrambled eggs these days. I just can't FOCUS. It takes all kinds of tools and tricks to stay on task, even with pretty interesting & important work in front of me. Hell, I haven't even been able to formulate a coherent blog post that isn't a stack of disjointed thoughts. I can read fiction. I just can't read a journal article in its entirety or finish anything in one sitting.

I'm sleeping OK---enough hours, mostly uninterrupted (except when its not). I just had a vacation in which I allowed myself to relax (very little work, slept in, lazed around) though the kids were nuts and it wasn't exactly relaxing most of the time. I've been sticking with my routines for exercise, eating, sleeping, quiet time, etc... that I need to function.

I wonder if its the inevitable effect of spending so much time flitting from click-bait article to facebook post to blog post to another article. This inability to go deep and stay there. I'm sure there is research on this topic. I'm also sure I don't need to spend 45 minutes down that rabbit hole right now!

I've decided to make some goals for the month, inspired by SHU. All these goals are based around the central theme of improving focus.
  • Download mediation app and use daily (any recs for free/low cost apps?)
  • Stay off all internet forums
  • NO online shopping (after 9 months of having no desire to buy new clothes, I suddenly have a growing mental list of things I want, and I'm distracting myself "window shopping" for the future)
  • Read journal articles in paper form, away from computer. 
  • Planning/outlining on paper, in notebook 
  • Phone away after dinner and on weekends
  • Use pomodoro method for work: 25 minutes on-task, 5 minute break X 5 and then a 25 minute break. These breaks will be the only internet time during the workday (though can also be used for other tasks like budgeting or phone calls or to take a quick walk)
  • No internet while eating any meal, even at work (OK to munch fruits/veggies for a snack while working!). I like the idea of eating more mindfully, and using that time as a real mental and physical break. If nothing else my eyes need a rest!
I'm considering whether music might be helpful while I'm writing. I used to actually get a lot done with the low-volume buzz of noises in the lab (though the less-frequent bursts of laughter/squealing drove me nuts). My office is pretty quiet, but I can hear the guy who sits in the middle of our suite making phone calls 3 days a week (its his job, soliciting donations) or people coming in to make copies or faxes. Maybe I'll bring in some headphones tomorrow.

OK, time for 25 minutes of revising aims.


  1. Headspace is a good and free meditation app

    1. Its a free trial but then there is a monthly subscription model. I am trying "calm" but there is also "breathe" both of which are free but have in-app purchases.

    2. I'm using the Breathe app. I think it's decent so far. And I like the price :)

    3. the idea of paying a monthly fee for meditation kind of irks me, but I guess people also pay to go on retreats etc...

  2. OMG, I have also been completely distracted lately. I think (hope) it will settle down after #2's wedding, though maybe not given how much other traveling I'm doing (currently between office visits before I give a seminar... should be using this 30 min to work on a referee report, instead I'm all, ooh, ana updated and I tricked leechblock into letting me see what you updated by using IE instead of firefox)

    Music definitely helps me focus when I'm doing tasks that don't require a huge amount of thinking. I like Performance Today.

    This is an internet trend I can totally get behind. I've been trying to Pomodoro/Boice but completely failing.

    In my case, I do think some of the problem is sleep-related. The cats' litterboxes are within earshot of the bedroom and LittleKitty is really bad at covering up her poo but she spends a LONG time trying. Eventually I stop dreaming about loud chalkboards and wake up to the noise.

    1. We have a smelly cat problem, too.

      And, Ana, yes I feel like, yes, I've read research about attention problems and internet...basic cognitive science stuff, though I am completely drawing a blank right now.

      I also do Pomodoro type work (my timer just went off!!) and generally I try to take breaks away from the computer. Even taking a walk and getting a drink of water...

  3. You mean it's abnormal not to be able to focus on scholarly articles for more than 5 minutes at a time? Whoops.

    Why is it the "pomodoro" method? Tomato? Doesn't make sense.

    1. I honestly have no idea why he named it that (name sounds italian) but all the websites/apps include a tomato as the icon.

  4. Great goals :) I am intrigued by your decision to go back to paper / notebook. You will have to let us know how it goes.

  5. I have the same problem when it comes to focus ... I feel like I've completely lost it! And I feel like there's so much I have to read in order to be prepared for work (not to mention all of the email I have to respond to) that I keep sliding down the rabbit hole. These are great goals!