About [thirteen] years ago Attention Deficit Disorder guru Dr. Ed Hallowell noticed a new malady he dubbed: CrazyBusy. It feels like ADD or ADHD, but it's not the "real thing"--it's an environmentally-self-induced condition.
It's the feeling of being overstretched, overbooked, too busy to just sit down & relax, distracted, unorganized, not knowing what to do first--brought on by our seductive technology that makes us hyper-available--and a culture that values busyness over slowing down & taking "time out" to just think.
Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, child & adult psychiatrist who is one of the leading experts in ADD & ADHD
If you received this post via email, click here, to get to the web version with all the links.
Dr. Ned Hallowell popped into my head last week.
Three times last week I read something provocative about ADHD, Ritalin & the downside of the distracted brain. Click here, here, and here to find out why Dr. Ned Hallowell was slowly worming his way into my brain last week.
I was starting to get the message loud & clear that it's time to put some serious "parental controls" on my own iPhone, computer & podcast "over-use". Maybe it's time to go on a techno-diet or incorporate a secular sabbath. Check out Mark Bittman's "I Need a Virtual Break"--his early version of a secular sabbath experience. Somehow, I doubt he's kept it up.
I'm suffering from Hallowell's modern malady, CrazyBusy. Yep, I've definitely got that "feeling of being overstretched, overbooked, too busy to just sit down & relax, distracted, unorganized, not knowing what to do first--brought on by an iPhone, computer, open access to the best libraries in the country, my "day job" & my blogging/FB "off-the-clock" hobby.
I'm suffering from a big bellyache of information overload. Everything is endlessly interesting, uplifting & entertaining to me. And there's a bottomless buffet of free news, research articles, books, & essays to read or listen to.
Enough already! Right?
Time for some undistracted, quiet couch time with a juicy novel I can't put down!
This brain science piece on NPR, "A Lively Mind: Your Brain on Jane Austen" was the final kicker for me, forcing me to seek out Dr. Hallowell's sage advice.
Our brains crave full-attention reading! Who's getting really tired of all the casual, hurried, distracted reading going on these days? I know I am.
I long for quiet stretches of time to get totally absorbed in a book--without the lure of my iPhone, computer, TV, or facebook.
Turns out, brand-new brain research on distractibility & attention has surprised the socks off of Stanford University neuroscientists. When they compared (via an fMRI) the brains of volunteers reading a chapter of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park" in the typical distracted way most of us now read--with reading in a focused-with-full-attention" way--the differences were striking--with implications for all of us.
Get a load of the brain changes when volunteers read with close attention:
SHANKAR VEDANTAM: [W]hat's striking is that it wasn't just the part of the brain that focuses on attention that was different in the close reading.
What researcher Natalie Phillips is finding is that there are heightened emotional responses. There's heightened activation in the motor cortex, parts of the brain that are involved in movement, in perceiving where you stand in space. And all of these come to life when the reading is done in this close manner with close attention.
NPR HOST STEVE INSKEEP: OK. So what are the implications for us in this world where there are constant distractions, from television to e-mail to everything else?
SHANKAR VEDANTAM: Well, I think what the study is showing, Steve, is that reading [with a distracted] mind is not half as good as reading with your full focused mind. And the implications for kids is that you should turn off those iPhones, turn off those iPads, turn off the television if you really want to get the experience of what a book is, you need to give yourself time to become completely immersed in it.
Time to turn off the iPhone, iPad, computer, & TV.
I decided it was high time to re-read the post I wrote about Hallowell three years ago.
That was before the days of iPhones, iPads, wireless, 3G or 4G. Before we had a clue what "really wired" could mean to our lives. Those were the Blackberry days. And I never owned one.
But forget about techno distraction for a minute.
Realistically, is it possible to follow Hallowell's advice to pick just 3 things to accomplish a day & call it quits? I've yet to come close to learning that lesson.
Every day I naively (or stupidly) think I can accomplish far more than is humanely possible. There will always be more things that need to be done--than time available. When I re-read, "Fighting Entropy With New Habits - Why I Vow to Make My Bed Every Morning," a post I wrote 4 1/2 years ago, I can see how everything on my To-Do list back then--is still on my list today, just new variations on the same themes. That's a good thing. If you have a house, friends, celebrations, a garden, a job, a family--there will always be a never-ending to-do-list. That's something to be thankful for, not whine or fret about! Right?
But, I'm proud to say--that ever since writing that entropy post 4 1/2 years ago--I got into the BED-MAKING Habit--and it always "makes my day!"
Not being rattled by that never-ending list of chores--being able to guiltlessly detach from it all--and just plain do nothing is the real antidote to CrazyBusy.
And that means "unplugging" everyday--at least for awhile. Drs. David Rock & Daniel Siegel's, "Healthy Mind Platter" is absolutely "spot on", reminding me how important it is to take some time out everyday to do two things that kind of sound the same, but are subtlely different--one is active--one is passive:
- Time In. When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain. (sounds so academic--but I do "get" what they mean--& it really does work)
- Down Time. When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.
If I've learned one thing over the almost 5 years that I've been blogging--it's that there are only so many hours in a day--and every time I add a new activity, I better figure out something to eliminate--or else! There's always an opportunity cost. It's so easy to forget about that. Click here to read more.
I love when I have plenty of open space on my family room book shelf or in my refrigerator. I figure life is a lot like a book shelf, a refrigerator, or a closet. You have to get rid of something if you want to make room for something new.
And my other fave blogging lesson, that I continue to be reminded about daily, is the importance of making time for sleep. There's just no way to scrimp on that one. Click here for more on that score.
October 24, 2009
Revisting: Dr. Ed Hallowell, Author of "Crazy Busy Overstretched & Overbooked" Pays a Visit. Strategies for Controlling Our ADD-Like Technology and Busyness Addictions
Last Wednesday, ADD/ADHD expert Dr. Ned Hallowell paid a visit to my medical center to speak at our Wellness Grand Rounds. The last time I went a Wellness Grand Rounds Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, spoke and my eating habits have been forever changed. (Dr. T. Colin Campbell Pays a Visit: Does This Mean I Have to Become a Vegan? click here) I think Hallowell's visit is going to have a similar life-changing effect.
When Dr. Hallowell speaks, you listen. This guy is THE ADD/ADHD expert, because he knows exactly what it feels like. He's dyslexic with ADHD, so if he can control his time & environment well enough to graduate from Harvard & medical school, teach medical students, write multiple books, run a private practice, and still be an attentive parent & husband--I'm all ears. Besides, you can't help but like this guy. He's warm, down-to-earth, and funny!
OK. Dr. H. had a lot to say, so I'm dividing his words of wisdom into 3 posts:
1. The CrazyBusy Malady. Pseudo-ADHD. How to recognize it & what to do about it.
2. ADD/ADHD. What is it? How to manage it. Why we should look at it from a Strength-based model--not a Disease-based model.
3. Adult ADD. How to recognize it. How to manage it.
What's the CrazyBusy Disorder & What Causes It?
CrazyBusy is a self-induced, culture-induced, technology-induced disorder that leaves us feeling frazzled, forgetful, frenzied, unorganized, and overloaded.
Does this sound like you?
You have way too much too do, you're constantly interrupted at work and at home with demands for your time, and even when you're not being interrupted by others, you're interrupting yourself by constantly checking your email, your Blackberry, your cell phone, your iPhone--or googling every random question that pops into your head. No wonder we're all feeling busier than ever, accomplishing less, and about to SNAP!
CrazyBusy feels just like ADD/ADHD with one big exception: ADD/ADHD is a condition one is born with. CrazyBusy is a condition we create ourselves--and it's much easier to control.
Take the Vermont Test to decide if you have ADD or CrazyBusy.
If after spending one week on a farm in Vermont, you are happily relaxed and plowing the fields, you have CrazyBusy. If you end up turning the place into an amusement park--you've got ADD.
The Vocabulary of CrazyBusy.
1. Gemmelsmerch. It's a made up word to "describe the force that distracts a person from what he or she wants or ought to be doing. It's as pervasive & powerful as gravity." It's all the stuff that distracts us: magazines, TV, the computer, cell phones, Blackberries, phone calls, ideas that just pop into your head, the mess in your house/office/yard (yes, that too is a distraction), email and on and on.
2. Screensucking. Wasting time watching the screen of a TV, computer, or video game.
3. EMV. That tell-tale voice of a person who is reading their email while talking on the phone.
4. Doomdart. The forgotten task that suddenly pops into your head when you're doing something else--and off you go to attend to it.
5. Taildogging. Going faster and faster simply because everyone else is.
Hallowell's Favorite Story of Person Hopelessly Technology-Addicted
A woman asked him, "Is it OK that my husband puts his Blackberry down next to him when we make love?"
What's Happened to our Lives to Make Us Feel So CrazyBusy?
1. Technology. It's speeded up our lives. We're always reachable. If we're not careful we'll be too available and we won't have any sacred uninterrupted time to think.
2. The Addictive & Seductive Nature of Technology. There really is a dopamine release (the feel-good brain chemical) when we see a new email, text-message, or missed call. So, when we do have down-time, instead of disconnecting and taking time to think or do important tasks, we go straight to the computer and check our email, Facebook, twitter, or regular daily websites. It feels like we're doing work--but we're really sabotaging ourselves. We're giving up control of our time.
Hallowell's Advice to Get Control of Your Time
1. CONTROL Your Technology--Don't Let It Control You! Develop a system that works for you--when you take calls, how you prioritize emails, taking regular time away from the seductive computer.
Hallowell's favorite success story:
A rising star who had climbed the ladder at Starbucks thought she owed her career success to her masterful multi-tasking prowess on her Blackberry. She was even able to cook dinner with one hand, and send emails with the other.
When she got hired away by the Gates Foundation, she was told they didn't allow Blackberries at work. She had to give it up. She freaked. How could she give up the secret to her success? But she wanted the job, so she gave it a shot.
First week of giving up the Blackberry: She was anxious and edgy.
Second week of giving up the Blackberry: She felt calmer, and got her best work done--ever! When it comes to productivity, uninterrupted time trumps multi-tasking every time.
Moral of the story: You need to be in charge of your technology. You can't be so available that you have no time to work on what's most important to you--what matters most. Take control of your time--or it will evaporate and you won't even know where it went!
2. CANCEL. Construct boundaries for your time. Don't be a victim of your own generosity, or you'll risk being picked at all day. Don't be afraid to cancel people--or organizations that are sucking your time--or that you are hanging on to out of guilt. It may seem difficult at first, but if you get into the habit of canceling what doesn't really matter, you'll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much more energy you have. Try to think of at least one activity, meeting, or event you can cancel right now. Pare down your life to its best.
3. CARE. Pick 3 things you want to accomplish today. This exercise takes 5-7 minutes a day--but it gives your day direction. Decide what you care about most. You do not have time for everything you care about, so you must prioritize. If you don't do this consciously, you will do it unconsciously simply because what you care about exceeds the time you have to devote to each item on your list.
You need to spend most of your day doing what you're good at, what you like, and what adds value to the world.
If you aren't doing this, you'll end up sick & unhappy.
4. CREATE organization in your life to help you concentrate. Take the time to set up structures and systems in your life to help you get organized. This might mean a new filing system or getting your home or office in order so it's not a constant concern or a distraction. It could even mean setting aside a part of an evening solely for conversation with your spouse, or a time you book into your schedule for exercise.
5. CONNECT with the people & projects that matter most to you. Take the time to figure out who & what matters most to you and connect with them. You'll reap the benefits of a positive emotional atmosphere at home, at work, and wherever you go. Connecting with others is also the best way to reduce worry. Hallowell's sage advice: It's fine to worry, just try never to worry alone.
6. CULTIVATE your Lilies and discard your Leeches. To do this you must take what the people in Alcoholics Anonymous call the fearless inventory, but in this case it is not of yourself, but your life. What do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? Figure that out, then do it.
Do Your Best Work By Creating More of the C-State and Less of the F-State
C-State: You'll do your best work when you are cool, calm, collected, and concentrated. Preserve it!
F-State: You'll do your worst work when you are fearful, forgetful, frustrated, frazzled, and frenzied. Guard against it!
The Productivity Secrets of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates
Busyness doesn't mean you're productive.
Warren Buffett supposedly doesn't have a computer on his desk. I'm not sure how he does any work without one--but then again, I'm not going to argue with his success.
Bill Gates supposedly retreats to a cabin in the woods for several weeks every year--just to recharge, think, and read without interruption. After personally going on a few week-long silent meditation retreats over the years, I second Gates' productivity technique.
Successful people take time to STOP AND THINK!
So where do I personally need a CrazyBusy Tune-Up? It's pretty clear to me.
I need to:
1. Control my screensucking computer addiction.
2. Pick just 3 things every day to accomplish--I need to remember I can't do everything I care about--I need to prioritize.
3. Create better systems to organize all my projects and papers--and my house and household chores--so I won't spend unnecessary time & energy distracted by disorganization.
Anyone relate to CrazyBusy?
Got any survival tips to share?