Lately, it seems I can’t keep my mind on one thing long enough to accomplish anything. This is not just in writing, it’s everywhere – stuff I need to do at home, and also at my day job.

Sometimes, life can feel like this

You’d think it would be easy to stay focused on my job. I’m blessed to have a job I actually like, and the people I work for pretty much hand me a project to do then leave me alone to do it. They are so hands off they rarely even ask for progress. So I can sit at my computer and write code all day 😀 – yes, I know that sounds awful to a lot of people, but it’s what I love! People seldom stop by my desk and interrupt me, unlike jobs past where that was the reason I couldn’t get anything done. When my awesome, current coworkers stop by, it’s usually for something important, like lunch. Yet, there are enough facets to a programming project that I actually can – and do – break up my tasks.

There’s always documentation to be written – something none of us like to do (otherwise, we become business analysts, like one of my peeps), and always seems to be put off until the last minute. There are usually bugs to fix. Email to answer. Luckily, my desk phone hardly ever rings (heaven!) and when it does, it’s a wrong number half the time.

But even when I’m deep in coding, work gets fragmented because to see my changes, I have to restart the web server on my computer, which takes a minute or two.

And while it’s doing that, I’m off to read blogs. Or check personal email on my phone. Or something similar.

At first,  making use of these few minutes of downtime here and there seemed like a good way to keep up with all the blog reading I have. There are over 100 blogs in my Google Reader feed – granted, not all of them update regularly, or even often. But there are dozens of new ones to read every day, some of which I really enjoy and look forward to. But by the time I read a post and maybe comment, my web server’s been restarted for a couple of minutes and I’m basically goofing off. Not good. Other times, I’m on a roll with something, then a reminder pops up from Microsoft Outlook, or a random thing I need to remember pops into my head, so of course I have to note that great idea for a blog post on my phone, go call that person or make that appointment, or send that email. More fragmentation.

It’s worse at home, and I don’t have the excuse of waiting for a web server to restart. Mostly it’s that last thing – remembering something or the burst of inspiration that never comes when I’m actually working on the thing that needs inspiring. Sometimes I think of something I want to look up on the Internet – just for a minute! – which of course turns into fifteen. Or a half hour. Or more. I think this fragmentation is the root of all evil of my motivation problems. It doesn’t help that my to-do list is seemingly a mile long – and just thinking about it is overwhelming sometimes to the point that I just want to play computer games (and sometimes, that’s just what I do). This is worse when I’m not feeling well (my excuse reason for not posting a blog on Monday).

Some of this is within my control. Today, I went to work resolved to give my job my full attention, even if it meant twiddling my thumbs for a minute while waiting for the ol’ web server to restart or some files to copy over the network.

I got a lot done – got my project deployed to where my coworkers can use it, in fact. I got documentation written – a whole release notes document. Not a big one, but important. It felt good, I felt accomplished, and I enjoyed work more.

My blog reading might just have to get cut back a bit.

The other stuff is harder to get a handle on – what I call the “life” stuff. Remembering at nine PM, an appointment I have to make the next day during business hours. The best way to be sure I’ll remember it is to email myself at work – right now. That thing I have to look up on the Internet before I forget. I still haven’t gotten to blogs yet today, or writing, other than this blog post, because of planning other things – and playing a computer game or two.

What about you? Have you noticed your life getting more fragmented as you get older or take on more roles (adding “writer” to “mom/dad,” “employee,” “husband/wife,” etc.)? Does it disrupt your enjoyment of things you used to love? How did/do you handle it? Right now, “power through” is my only answer. Wish me luck that it’ll continue!

7 Responses to \

  1. oh yeah, I do, Jennette. and then there’s all the great books my friends have written that need a review. and…and…and…I live alone so what’s my excuse? work has got crazy busy, so no free minutes there. and at home? well let’s just say the dust bunnies have won the war. i started a list and i’m working on things on the list – 1 or 2 a day but enough to make progress. and i’m taking some time off so I can get caught up a bit. because the falling behind makes me crazy. LOL

  2. Fragmented, that’s a great way to describe it. I tried to get it under control by writing out to-do lists then crossing things off, but that turned out to be just one more thing I had to do. argh… I need a twin who’s willing to do the non-fun stuff.
    Great post, Jenn, and thought provoking.

  3. I’m not going to tell you to power through, Jennette. Illness (the reason behind the missed blog post)is a symptom of doing too much. Cut yourself some slack.

    Once upon a time, I awoke at five and went to bed between 11 and midnight. Nowadays, I crave sleep, so what used to get accomplished in 18 hours, is jammed into 16.

    Congrats on getting your project deployed to the point your coworkers can use it.

  4. I bet most people can relate to this post, Jennette, writers especially. When I feel all-over-the-place, I find short breaks someplace quiet helpful. I think it’s more important than ever during such times to set boundaries and carve out alone time to focus (if we can) on our projects. If focusing at all is out of the question, I’d take a longer break if you can.

    I also think talking about our frustrations helps. I hope this post gave you some clarity, and you feel less fragmented (perfect word!) soon.

  5. Louise, this falling behind is making me crazy, too! I don’t even talk about dust bunnies – they’re Jackalopes here LOL. I keep a to-do list, but for everything I mark off, it seems I add two more things! But, it does help.

    Prudence, one time I read a blog where the author asked if we could have any superpower, what would we pick? I said the ability to be in two places at once, LOL! That way one of me could go to work, and one of me could write!

    Pat, thanks! I’m trying to go to bed at a decent hour. It’s tough!

    August, going someplace quiet sounds like a good idea. I had the house to myself for a while when I came home from work, so that helped. So did writing about it – thanks!

  6. I can definitely relate. Here it is nearly 11pm and I’m still trying to read some of the blogs I set aside to read today. I can’t possibly read them all, all the time. I try to alternate the ones I do read, although there are some I really look forward to every week. I usually learn something from each one I delve into – I have some intelligent and funny friends. 🙂

    But, the time — I just don’t have enough. And between reading/commenting on blogs, emails, projects, etc., I’m always feeling pulled in a different direction. And I haven’t even mentioned writing yet. That’s because I haven’t gotten to it today. I’m pooped. I think I’ll go play a game. 🙂

    Take care of yourself and try to de-stress a little. I know I am going to make a better effort at it.

  7. As women we tend to be the centre of our little universe; husband, children, running the house, writing, etc., etc.

    At some point something’s got to give. Add in self publishing and social networking and well, it’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve taken at least a week off actual writing. Although, having said that, I’ve been jotting down outlines for a couple of new contemporaries and world building my vampire series so that’s writing too. And something we all need to remember is that it isn’t just about battering out a certain number of words per day.

    It’s not easy this gig and we can’t be all things to all people and yet not doing the very thing that brings us joy.

    I don’t the answer, except to concentrate on the writing first and foremost, the rest must surely follow. Fragmented is a great description of how we all feel when we’re overwhelmed. You need to take time just for YOU and relax and chill (she says needing to take her own advice). We’re not going anywhere, we’ll all still be here when you feel better able to cope.

    Big Hug