For E, we talked about Executive Functioning and Tom Brown’s six clusters of Executive Functioning. His second cluster is Focus and is specified as “Focusing, sustaining and shifting attention to task”. This seems quite straight-forward, but let’s delve into it a little deeper.
Focusing, so being able to concentrate on a task. Sustaining focus, staying concentrated on a task. Shifting attention to task, unlike the starting a task in the Organization cluster, this (at least I assume) is about getting back on task when you get distracted.
Focus. That one word I keep telling myself over and over. Focus. Focus. Focus. Actually, chanting it to myself often helps me to pull my attention back to whatever I’m doing instead of it wandering all over the place. I tend to chant it to myself when I feel like my brain is trying to sabotage me, especially when I’m under a lot of stress, for example when I’m packing to go on holiday or when I need to catch a bus or a train and I’m still not out the door even though I should have left five minutes ago…
Focus, focus, focus. Chanting it often lets me drown out all the different things my brain wants to do instead and lets me follow a list or whatever else I’m still doing.
Lists are one of those tools that I feel really help with this. A list allows me to break a task down into multiple smaller steps, so I even when my mind starts to wander, I can go back to the list and know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing next.
One of the reasons I often find it hard to focus on something is when a task is too overwhelming. At that point, all three things in this cluster start to suffer. A task too big is hard to focus on, my brain rather figures out ways to not have to focus on the task (no sustaining) and then if I do get distracted, I’m much more likely not to return to the task and instead going off to do something else (shifting attention).
One of my most hated tasks is doing laundry every week. Making a list to break this down really helps, and I even spread the task over multiple days.
Laundry consists of:
1. Putting dirty clothes into washing machine
2. Taking clean and dry clothes from the line (we don’t have a drier) and putting them away onto shelves
3. Putting clean clothes from the washing machine and put them on the line
4. Putting dirty towels and other dishcloths and stuff into the washing machine
5. Putting towels on the line
6. Quick wash for small items if needed
7. Put those on the line too
I especially hate the second step of this task, I really really dislike it. I find it boring. But, by breaking the task down and spreading it over multiple days, I at least get to break it up into small bits of time. Taking clothes from the line takes about 10-15 minutes, but it’s my most hated task.
Well, that, and doing the dishes, but my only solution to that one is to put on some fun music and not having to do it on my own…
Do you have any tips for dealing with big tasks or staying focused?