Staying Focused While…wait, what was I saying?

The eternal frustration in my life is lack of organization. Stacks of books and stacks of papers, boxes of knickknacks and broken typewriter keys. A thousand projects and no semblance of order to accomplish them. A brain that pushes out information almost as fast as it attains it.

It’s not like I’m dumb, or the information is actually gone. I mean, I can tell you how many times they shoot Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leg with tranquilizers during the memory implantation in Total Recall. (It was 7.)

The problem is I draw a blank when I need the information. I try to take notes and make lists; set reminders in my phone. I tried putting everything in my calendar, putting nothing in my calendar, making comprehensive to do lists, making no to do lists. I’ve used a dozen apps and daily planners, but I still forget what I’m doing after walking 15 feet. I was hypercritical of my inability to focus and complete tasks, and would beat myself down for those perceived failures.

I have problems paying attention to anything that’s not in my forefront of thought, which is only occupied by the last thing to have caught my attention. When you’re talking to me and it seems I’m not listening or paying attention, well, I’m probably not. But I swear it’s not deliberate. It’s just that Midnight Oil is on the radio, and I remembered their singer looking scary when I was little, so I had to look him up, and I found out he became an Australian politician and civil rights activist for aboriginal peoples.

Is any of this making sense? I started writing it last night, but now I’m cooking pancakes and not sure if I’m staying on subject.

Every time I recognize that I’m off track, I try to correct course. I’ll go back to the last system that gave me some results, or the one before that. Sometimes it will work again, sometimes it won’t. Lists usually work to some degree, especially checklists. Sometimes scheduling tasks works well.

The important thing is that I don’t completely quit with my efforts to be somewhat organized, even if they look like disasters from afar. It’s sort of like I have to bring all of my thoughts and ideas into one mass and pick through them. Regrouping, refocusing. I’ll make a mini plan of action and set off.

Who knows how long before that plan of action is derailed. I constantly have new ideas and plans, and they start pushing the other ones out. I’m hoping my somewhat convoluted system of note taking will actually create order from the chaos. Or at minimum, keep me in check enough to not be completely flitting about like a drunk pixie.

I’ve read some books on organization and productivity that have helped me immensely. One of them is 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse. Another that I’m pretty sure was good is Delivered From Distraction by Dr. Edward Hallowell. I say I’m pretty sure, because ironically enough, I made it partway into the book, got sidetracked, and proceeded to lose it. I actually did that two or three times.


Today, I’ve combined strategies from everything I’ve done in the past. Just as with coping strategies, there’s the right tool for the job, and the more diverse knowledge you have, the better chance of handling a situation properly. You don’t cut wood with a hammer, you know what I’m saying? Fill your toolbox.

I still use reminders on my phone sometimes. I still put items in my calendar sometimes. I still make lists. But above all else, the easiest and most effective thing I’ve been able to do is simple, basic goal setting.

The idea with basic goal setting is to build an outline of how to achieve the goal. No matter how big or small, goals have steps to achieve them. If you break it down into those steps, you’ll be able to progress. Some steps will themselves have steps, especially for larger goals. In addition, there’s often tasks that aren’t part of any step in particular, but can still be done to aid in the process.

Working on outlines

I know diagnoses overlap heavily and often, and life itself creates distraction, so blaming this on ADD isn’t 100% fair. But to counter that fairness, I’ll be fair to myself by saying I can’t take ADD medication because it’s all habit forming and can be abused. So yeah, let’s blame it on ADD.

How long will this work? Who knows! Will I even finish this outline now that I’ve done enough to include a picture in a blog post? Maybe! I literally closed the book after I got enough for a pic. See how my head goes?

Like I said in the beginning, the important thing is that I keep trying, and don’t beat myself up when I fall off track. If you have problems with organization and attention, you have to do the same thing. don’t quit. And for Christ sake, don’t ever compare yourself to people who are tidy and organized and can keep track of their lives. Their brains don’t work the same as ours, and you need to accept that fact to make progress. Like a ten and a half foot, fittin in a seven shoe.

So that’s it. Stay aware and don’t beat yourself up. Or in the words of Corporal Hicks,

“Hey, I know we’re all in strung out shape but stay frosty and alert

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