Focal Point

My daughter-in-law and son attended their first childbirth class this weekend, which naturally started me thinking about my own childbirth classes (way back in the olden days). While learning the various breathing techniques designed to help you manage labor, we were encouraged to have a “focal point” – something on which to focus our vision and our attention during contractions.  This focal point could be anything – a picture, a figurine, a piece of jewelry, a stuffed toy – something on which to direct concentration and ostensibly divert our attention from our suffering.

You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you my focal point was a book. My copy of Little Women had a cover that I had always found particularly soothing – the four girls gathered on the floor around Marmee, their long skirts in various shades of pastel draped in graceful folds about them. I decided that was the perfect focal point – and if I got bored, I could always read it.

In actuality, my son was born so quickly and easily, I didn’t even need the darn focal point (and I hope my grandson follows his dad’s example!)  It’s probably a good thing too, because I have a feeling that relying on my ability to focus on a book cover would not have been very effective.

Truth is, I’m not very good at maintaining a focus on anything, a problem that seems to be intensifying with every passing year. My mind seems to dart all over the place, and my body just goes along for the ride. For instance, I might start out to clean up the breakfast dishes, but, after putting the coffee cups into the dishwasher, I remember that I haven’t taken my calcium supplement, so I do that, and then remember that I need to start cooking the chicken for the dogs, so I do that, and then remember I need to look up the recipe I’m cooking for dinner so I can make a market list, so I do that…

You get the picture.

This behavior is not just domestic – I’m afraid it extends to my working life as well.  Within the space of an hour, I can find myself with half a dozen “windows” open on my computer screen, each one with a project at various stages of incompletion. The only place I can focus my attention for any length of time is at the piano.  I can spend an hour working on one page of one movement of one sonata, and be surprised that it’s been 60 minutes instead of six.

I blame my latent attention deficit disorder on two things – age and the internet.

Age, because my sense of impending doom due to my advanced years compels me to complete as many tasks as possible in the amount of time left to me; and the internet because the constant call of information overload leads me down one garden path after another, causing my mind to break into fragments that can only handle small increments of activity.

So, how to combat this situation? I’ve been making lists, which I categorize and prioritize by project, ticking off each item when it’s completed. I’ve also been making a concerted effort to complete ONE thing before moving on to something else.  It definitely takes some focus to make THAT happen.  By the time I get through a complete project without veering off in sixteen other directions, I’m as tired as if I’ve given birth. (Well, almost.) And I’ve been limiting my time on the internet to specified intervals at certain times of the day.

Of course, if none of this works, I can try hauling out my copy of Little Women and see if that helps me stay on task.  Never underestimate the power of a focal point.

How about you? Do you have difficulty maintaining your focus these days?



16 thoughts on “Focal Point

  1. Wow! I think you just wrote my life today, I find exactly the same distractions and I also think it’s a combination of age, internet and trying to be everywhere and do everything. I know I try to read too much and let my mind wander as I am listening to the TV in the background while jumping from blog to blog deciding which to read first.

    Since today is a Holiday, it is a bit easier, I have time to check each out and maybe try a new one or two (Thanks, Kim Z.). Unfortunately, I know we want to get a few things done today so I probably won’t get all the blogs read or other little chores around the house done.

    I haven’t figured out any tricks for reducing the distractions, I just keep plugging away and see how the day sorts itself out. I am able to focus a bit better at the office as I have projects that have deadlines and daily activities that have to be done so I can schedule the day a bit better.

    Well, it’s off to another blogerama fest, cheers!

    • Well, Lou, it’s good to know I’m not alone in my distractedness! My biggest problem right now is controlling the number of projects I start at once, and then finishing one before I tackle another.

      Good luck to both of us!

  2. This is an excellent post. 🙂 I think that I have the opposite problem. I can get so focused on one task that I loose sight of the other things all around me. Katy has been known to put a plate full of food on the table or desk next to me and I never see it. I am very organized and task oriented so it is easy for me to start and finish tasks , one after the other and knock stuff out fairly quickly. The only time that I have problems focusing is during emotional distress or when I catch myself suffering from spring fever. When it is nice outside and I am reminded that I am cooped up in my office staring at computer screens all day long instead of being able to be outside enjoying the sunshine and the cool air. I have also found that I have to turn off social media when I need to focus. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and e-mail all tend to distract me to the point of frustration. So , when I need to get something done I turn all of that off.

    • It seems to me that I was much more focused and task oriented when I was young(er). And, like you, when I”m emotionally distressed all semblance of focus goes out the window.

      Social media is a ridiculous distraction for me, and I need to learn to turn it off completely in order to be a all productive.

  3. I like the idea of a focal point. In childbirth, that focal point has been good drugs. 🙂 I can relate to your example in the kitchen… that’s me all the time. The truth is I’ve always been sort of a wanderer… paying attention takes work. But like with you and the piano, some things naturally and easily grab my attention. With other things, I have to develop systems to stay on task.

  4. As I was reading your post an email arrived from a friend so let me quickly reply to that – but first I want to click on the link she sent me – oh, and now the cat is sitting down next to me and I know he wants feeding so hang on just a moment while I do that – ah, is that a dirty litterbox, let me clean that and as I wash my hands I should also take off my make-up … now, where was I again? Reading this and wanting to leave a comment! So I shall focus and give you my full attention 🙂

    You describe an all-to-familiar scenario and I think for me there are two culprits to blame, too: my general laid-backness and my knack for procrastination. The latter especially makes it very easy for me to get distracted and do anything but the thing I should be doing. The funny thing is that I can also be very focused once I get stuck into something, to the point where I’ll ignore anything and everyone around me, sometimes for hours. With my new work schedule I am finding that the lure of distraction has become more appealing and I am considering the creation of a time-table for myself, with dedicated slots for the various activities that I routinely distract myself from completing. I’ll let you know how it goes!

    • This is just so comforting – to read all your comments and know I’m not alone in my craziness! Ahhh – I’m normal after all 🙂

      Thanks, Kerstin, and yes, do let me know how that timetable works out for you!

  5. Funny you should mention…

    I keep looking behind me to see if I’m leaving a trail of brain cells. We’re losing ground daily around here. Focus, focus, focus…

  6. Oh Becca…I so understand this. I have a lot of trouble focusing on anything for a long period of time and part of it is certainly a restlessness, a constant feeling that I have to get something done in my life before it’s too late. And what a beautiful focal point. That book is so pretty, inside and out. And thank you for your kind words on my blog today 🙂 I’m happy to have found you on the internet too.

    • Ah, Melissa, so you are another one -it seems to be epidemic among my friends on the internet, the common thread in all our distracted-ness!

      Thank you so much for visiting me 🙂

  7. Focal points probably have a good time and place; however I think you’re far too creative to focus in on just one thing. You sound like quite an effective multi-tasker to me!

    An off the side, I was crazy about this template when I saw it on WordPress; so wish they would have had Chateaux before I returned to Blogger. It looks wonderful with your blog! 🙂

    • That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said yet about being unfocused – I like that idea. I’m not ditzy, just “very creative” 😉

      I have noticed that it’s easier to stay focused when I’m not so crazy busy. Now that I’m only working part time from home, and am far less stressed than I was while working at the office, I’m having an easier time staying on task. Which makes perfect sense.

      I’m glad you like the blog – I love all your different looks, but am never brave enough to try switching about so much!

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