Momentum

6 Oct

Shout of to Mark Manson at PostMasculine.com for the inspiration me to start a blog, write often, and decide on an overall theme!

Here’s my first post, which will absolutely be a long, unorganized rant. My writing feels a little rusty and it is going to take a few days for me to get my mind and fingers in sync and to be succinct. So readers, if you’re out there, cut me some slack for now.

I have ADD. And ADD and I have a bittersweet relationship. It allows me to free associate and connect ideas in ways that most people do not or do with much greater difficulty. Yet, it is much more difficult for me to focus, of course. This has created procrastination that has been grueling to adjust to and I still have a long way to go, even while on Straterra. The biggest issue isn’t necessarily that I get unfocused, as that is easy for most people to do.  The issue is that when I lose focus initially, it is almost impossible to pull myself back to what I was doing. If I am typing an essay and my mind wanders to something I wanted to check up on Facebook and I check Facebook, the following process commences: I login, the unlimited stimulation and distraction of status updates, pictures, articles, groups, throws my mind far off course and I quickly forget about what I wanted to find out in the first place and end up lost in the virtual friend party. This happens just about 100% of the time I go to Facebook, “for a specific purpose,” as I tell myself.

I mention Facebook not just because it is my homework distraction of choice, but it has become the favorite of nearly every college student. Whenever I walk through the library of, “students hard at work: please be quiet,” around half are scrolling through Facebook. It makes me wonder how many of these students who live in the library would be so socially awkward if they actually used their study time efficiently. ANYWAYS. Only when I realize that I am on Facebook, do I remember that I was writing an essay and simultaneously realize both that I came to Facebook for a specific purpose and that I forgot what that purpose was. Even now, I am realizing that this article has steered off my original course and that we need to get back to my original goal. So by this lap in the procrastination circuit, I return to my essay. You know how motivated you feel when you can really feel yourself moving easily through your writing, because somehow your thoughts are coming easily and seem to move in rhythm with your keys on the computer? So that’s gone. All you are left with is the unfinished product and the last few sentences you wrote to stimulate your memory and hopefully get some feeling back into your mind and fingers. But it doesn’t work. You are in a different world. You know how when you were a kid and paused a video game in the middle of an action sequence, when you came back and resumed, you possibly felt a little off, like you needed to recalibrate your video game senses? It’s like that, but about a thousand times harder. The conceptual piece of the mind is incredibly complex and combining a specific feeling with a specific pattern of thought that you now only know in distant, obscure memory is impossible. Distractions like Facebook kill both your emotional motivation and demolish your pattern of thinking. Typing while thinking is in it’s nature hard something that must flow. It can’t be stopped and started. It required a connection to past thoughts. So what happens when I try and build it back up again?

It’s slow. The words and ideas feel misplaced. Usually I start typing something related to the last sentence, but far from meaningful. Then once I find an idea in these new, deadbeat sentences, I go with it and the build-up continues.

The solution?

It’s not as simple as don’t stop writing. It can’t be, as anyone who has written an entire essay the night before it is due (I’m talking to YOU, everyone) knows. Even when our thoughts and ideas are flowing well, our mind eventually gets tired and the loudness of what we are supposed to write fades until we can’t even hear a whisper. Like it is right now. I am still focused and motivated, but my mind is slowing down and whispering because I have been writing for a good while now and my writing muscles are entirely pathetic right now.

The solution:

A True Break

Don’t get on Facebook. Don’t pretend that you have to check just this one thing. Because you of all people know that this is more important and this “necessity” will throw you off track. So allow yourself, what I’ll call for now, “A True Break.” After all, while Facebook is in a way relaxing because of how easy it is, it doesn’t allow the mind a real break and throws it into a different pattern of thinking, as I’ve mentioned too many times already. Instead, get up. Take at least three minutes (but not more than ten to allow yourself to return to your pattern of thinking) to walk around and swing your arms back and forth like Michael Phelps. You will find it shockingly easy for your mind to think about nothing compared to your normal thought patterns when you move from class to Panda Express. People will pass by without a second glance. This is all because your mind is TIRED. It’s like any other workout you would do. And This period of nothingness in the mind is incredibly important. First of all, it gives your mind the necessary break to keep writing. Second, it keeps you from losing yourself in alternative distractions such as Facebook that resets your mind to thinking about something completely different. This method allows you to hit the pause button in your brain and start back about where you left off. It will feel a little uncomfortable getting yourself back on course, but it will be ten times easier than if you spent those minutes on Facebook, which wasn’t a true break anyways.

How to Tell When Your Brain is Tired

This part isn’t obvious for everyone and certainly isn’t for me. Looking back, there are two ways:

  • You are hitting alt+tab (changing windows to the internet browser or iTunes) or find yourself drifting off to other issues, such as your phone without fully conscious control.
  • Although you can feel that you have a good writing groove, you still can’t seem to form the words in your head or type them onto the screen.

If you are in the groove of writing, you should always be able to form words in your head, even if they don’t sound very good. So whenever you start switching windows or getting distracted, get up and walk around for whatever feels like at least three minutes, allowing yourself to continue walking for a couple more if you need to. Decide whether or not you should actually time your break, since it’s possible it could only stress you out if you are frequently checking out your watch or phone.

And finally, allow yourself to decide how much you actually needed the break based upon how blank your mind is when you are walking around. Because of my ADD I think that I am particularly prone to running thoughts 24/7, yet when I take these breaks at the right time, it’s quieter than a Buddhist Temple up there.

Overall, just avoid Facebook as relief. I have honestly found that when I want to take a break and instead of going on Facebook, I just get up and take a break, I am still able to return to the pattern of thinking of left off at in my writing. It must be the high stimulation of Facebook that gets the mind so lost. Maybe because it is such an easy, natural shift from writing to Facebook that your brain can’t actually tell them apart and thinks that the pattern we get into on Facebook is our new pattern and thus it wouldn’t make sense to go back to what we were thinking before. Anyways, you get the point. Healthy, true breaks are the answer. Be aware. Don’t let yourself get lost. Give yourself barriers to Facebook entry. StayFocusd is a good one. Then you have the chance to consciously say to yourself, “I don’t want to do this. I have a more important task at hand” or you take the break. It’s you’re call.

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