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September 18, 2020 Newsletter:

Interruptions to my flow have been a problem lately. 

The feeling of being tired and having issues with focus has gotten worse over the past couple of weeks for me. If I examine what has changed,  the largest factor is I went back to work in the building instead of being at home.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this situation, as there are in most situations. One big disadvantage for me is I have less control over my schedule and I don’t like it. It isn’t just me either. People complain that Zoom meetings are interrupting their day. The phone rings. Creative friends who are trying to do their morning pages get bothered by kids or the dog and they lose their flow.

As a teacher, interruptions are not a new concept. You would be surprised how many distractions there are in a classroom.(I am not talking about the number of students here. LOL)  The PA blares, an announcement is made, the phone rings,  a speech teacher wants to take a group, the nurse wants 2 students every ten minutes, , the door opens and closes with people going to the bathroom, etc. As a coach,  I was in a classroom last year for 15 minutes and I counted 7 disruptions to the flow of the thinking. SEVEN! 

In the article, How Distractions At Work Take Up More Time Than You Think, It takes an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine.

Twenty five minutes. Let that sink in. Remember the story I told a few paragraphs up? 7 interruptions which means about every 2 minutes there was a disruption of some sort. There is no time to get back to what you are thinking. 

Brain research also states our attention can only stay on something for so long as well. With children,  it is typical that their age, plus or minus two, is how long they can focus. For example, with a five year you have 2-7 minutes of their attention at a time. I believe attention to a task and flow are two different things. With flow I think of output and synthesizing of information. This takes more brain power and focus for me. 

Somehow the idea of interruptions seems heavier since trying to get back to work. I am in a classroom, without students, all day. There are people that still come to the door. The custodian comes to empty the trash at the start of the class, A teacher comes in to ask me a question when I start to record an asynchronous lesson. Someone comes into share a story.

The disruptions are not always unwelcome either. It has become a hindrance to my work. I then become frustrated because about the time I am back to the flow something else happens. Headphones are not a hindrance to people talking to me either. Maybe I need larger ones!

Another issue is I interrupt myself. Wednesday is a day full of meetings in my district. My attention was not on the group meetings I must admit. I had creative work on the brain. I kept thinking about what I wanted to read when I went home, or the podcast I was happy to listen to on my walk, or the question I needed to send to my writing partner. My coping mechanism in this instance is usually to make a list. Then it is out of my brain and logged somewhere so I won’t lose it. This didn’t work this week.The way I am wired I can usually jump from one thing to another quickly. As long as it is something that lights me up or that fuels me. I could not do it this week. Maybe I am more affected by the news of COVID and the rising cases in my state. I am worried about my own children going back to face to face school. There are other issues I am dealing with personally. My first thought is, “Well, everyone has things they are trying to deal with. It is not just me.” During the shelter in place time I have been open with the fact it was close to an ideal life schedule for me. There are many families that had hardships during this time that I have empathy for and I want no one to be sick. I have had my own hardships at different times in my life,  so I am not insensitive to this.

I cannot help feeling bombarded by stimulation. I cannot seem to filter it. I wonder if I am out of practice. When I was at work before it was rapid fire activity and things to check off and remember. There has been a period of rest and renewal along side the stress and to be honest, it feels weird.My writing flow happens in the morning before there are other distractions put on my plate for the day. I write immediately after waking up before doing anything else besides looking at the phone for the time.  In the Masterclass, Joyce Carol Oates has this to say:

“The great enemy of writing isn’t your own lack of talent, its being interrupted by other people. Constant interruptions are the destruction of imagination.”

 Lately I feel like this is too true. The frustration built up in me so much I was about to scream and throw something out the window. I had to talk out loud to myself and force myself to refocus. I took myself for a walk after work and read something I wanted to read for pleasure. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it worked temporarily. I have to remind myself to breathe and focus. I would love to hear how you deal with interruptions. Hit reply and let me know.

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