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?