On the art of zoning…

I am a consummate multitasker.  I’m someone who can have lots of projects running simultaneously, and has an organizational system in place so that I can move easily in between projects.  In many ways this multitasking is a great thing, and I feel like it means I got a lot of things done.  In other ways, it makes my life harder, as I then having a really hard time “wasting” time. For example, I find it difficult to eat alone without doing another project (such as reading or working) and I have been known to bring a book with me in front of the television so that I can read during commercials.

This obsessive multitasking will get more attention later.  However, its also true that, despite my multitasking ways, some times when I get deep into a project – getting in the “zone” – I have a hard time being pulled out.  If I’m deep in a project a work and someone tries to talk to me, I try to “multitask” working and conversing to somewhat disastrous results.  My attention stays focused on the project at hand and whoever or whatever is trying to distract me gets seriously short-shifted. (Interestingly enough, I’ve been told that this is what the male brain experiences most of the time, which is why you should never call your husband or boyfriend at work). Even if I do manage to pull my focus over to the other person or thing, I find my eyes drifting back to my original project, keeping me fairly distracted.

Any one else have this problem?

Usually after a occurrence like this happens I feel bad.  Especially if it happens with a person. After that person is gone and my project is done, it is easy to recognize that, in the moment, the person was more important than the project and it wouldn’t have done me a bit of harm to put things away and focus on the living, breathing person in front of me. But, by then, it is, of course, too late.

Saturday morning I found myself once again in this situation.  I was sitting at home, deep in the “zone” on a project that was very important to me.  In the middle of that zone, my phone rang. Usually I’ll turn my ringer off when I’m working on something of this magnitude so that I won’t be distracted, but this particular morning I had forgotten to do so. As I looked at the caller ID, I saw that it was a dear friend calling. We had been emailing and texting that week and had made plans to connect at some point that weekend in order to discuss a project that she was working on that was very important to her, so I knew she would be calling at some point. It just so happened that the call came as I was in the zone.

As I saw her name flash on my phone screen, I admit that a myriad of thoughts flashed through my mind.  I knew why she was calling and was excited to talk to her about her project as well as generally catch up.  However, I couldn’t help but look longingly at my computer screen, and at my own project. And I started reasoning that maybe I should let it go to voicemail, finish my own project, and then just call her back later.  No harm done, right?

Actually, there probably wouldn’t have been any harm done if I had simply called her back later.  But, I also realized that I was, in some small way, making a judgment call with my decision – what, or who, was more important? So I decided to make a positive decision, close my computer, and answer the phone.

The call was delightful. Because I made the decision to turn my complete focus to my friend we were able to have a lively, fun, and fruitful discussion about a wide range of projects, including the one she is working on, the one I had been working on when she called, and even this Positive Project. At the end I felt lightened and rejuvenated and was able to turn back to the project I had set aside with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

The person will always be more important.




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