Help me focus on doing whatever I'm doing well before moving on
March 28, 2010 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm really bad about not focusing on my current task, and hastily finishing whatever it is so I can move on to the next and perform it equally as poor. How can I learn to be more focused on -- and enjoy -- what I am currently doing, rather than spending that time looking ahead to the next project at the expense of doing the first well?

This isn't just about tasks at work -- this is with everyday things, too, like brushing my teeth, doing the dishes, or reading an article in a magazine, for example.

What tips or tricks can you teach me? Or even better, what books can you recommend?

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Mindfulness meditation does *exactly* that.
posted by callmejay at 6:20 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Treating my ADHD made this possible.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:34 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yes, this phenomenon is a HUGE part of my ADD. Now, I'm not a doctor and I don't want to start going around and telling everyone they have ADD, but I would recommend reading the recent askme thread about ADD. If a lot of this stuff sounds familiar to you, it might be worth it to visit a doctor.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:56 PM on March 28, 2010

I notice that you have "zen" in the title.


There is an old story about three Buddhist apprentice monks getting together and bragging about their masters.

"My master is very powerful," says the first. "When he sits in meditation he rises three feet above the floor."

"My master is greater than that," says the second. "When he sits his breath becomes blue flame, and anyone who touches it is burned."

The third apprentice regards them and then says "My master has the greatest power of all! When he sits all he is doing is sitting. And when he breathes he is doing is breathing."


The point of this story is that being present where you are and doing what you are doing is very very difficult. You know this, but I thought you might like to know that you are by no means alone :-)

The Buddhist practice to develop this skill is called Mindfulness Meditation (as mentioned above by callmejay). I've found that it helps me immensely and many of my friends report the same thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:59 PM on March 28, 2010

I'm another ADD-er saying I fixed this by fixing my ADD. I wrote a really long comment earlier today about the billion behavioral steps I took before getting diagnosed if you're interested in seeing what behavior modifications that, while helpful, ultimately did not solve the problem whereas 5mg of Adderall XR a day does solve it (with no side effects for me). I tried to show how methodically I narrowed it down, step by step. If you try a lot of things and nothing seems to work, start thinking about going to a psychiatrist. It could be ADD or it could be something else or they might just have a behavior modification you haven't thought of. It's worth investing in.

I have to say, my big clue that something was really wrong was when I no longer able to focus on things I enjoy, that were purely for leisure. If you can't read a magazine article -- I had trouble doing this, had to start and stop multiple times and do many things in the middle of even a short article -- then give some serious thought to analyzing why you can't focus on it. Is it because you're trying to read something you don't want to read, or it's poorly written? Then try reading something else you want to read. If you can't focus on that, ask yourself if anything else is complicating the issue. Are you sleepy? Are you stressed or preoccupied with some big issue that needs to be dealt with? Are you always like that? If not, is there anything different about those times? Are there other leisure activities that you can't focus on, or is it only "work" you can't focus on? Are there only certain places you can work? Is the same thing always distracting you? If so, what happens when you ban yourself from it? Just keep asking why and make fixes for anything that seems plausible.

For me, I ruled out everything until it finally came down to "I just have this constant urge to go do something else" no matter what, even though I didn't really want to do other stuff; I was just as unsatisfied with whatever I moved on to. When I asked myself "why?" there was no answer, and none of the possible answers had panned out once I took steps to correct them. You might actually find a psychological or behavioral answer. Even if you end up at a psychiatrist, though, every step you take along the way will have been of value to you.
posted by Nattie at 9:35 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get screened for ADD or ADHD. Maybe medications will give you a leg to stand on and help you get control of your mind.

If you don't go the medication route (or even if you do!) try practicing mindfulness meditation like callmejay said. I try it sometimes but I'm not very good at it yet. It does help me relax and focus, and overtime I've noticed that I become more one-mindful (occasionally!). Maybe try a guided meditation like this.
posted by motsque at 5:41 AM on March 29, 2010

A number of people mentioned mindfulness meditation, and you said you wanted book recommendations - Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living is a good place to start to read about mindfulness practice.
posted by laurajo at 11:00 AM on March 30, 2010

« Older I would like to know how you have dealt with or...   |   When should I come back to see my show? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.