All of us, at some point or another, fall on the sword of distraction.
Like the golden knight who falls victim to the antagonist, it creeps up on you, no matter how valiant of an effort you make.
But hey, no worries — look at the world we live in. It’s like a carnival filled with different games, except in this case each game is deadset on how to throw off your focus.
I feel like at some point or another, we’ve all self-diagnosed ourselves with ADD or ADHD in the depths of our inability to focus. Staying focused is no Sunday stroll in today’s world. But some of us are prone to losing focus a little more easily than others, and no matter how hard we try, it gets the best of us a lot of times.
The best is when other people offer up their advice on how to stay laser sharp and focused.
This is an open letter to all you wannabe therapists who claim you’ve got the solution.
Here’s 11 things people tell those who can’t focus to save their life:
1. “Just sit down and start the task you’ve been putting off for two minutes”
Yeah alright, first get me to sit down and then we can talk.
This gem about self-application is in every procrastination article you come across, and it goes something like this:
If you have trouble starting because you procrastinate due to low focus, just sit down and start whatever you don’t want to do. Try doing this for two minutes. You’ll find once you start, it goes way past two minutes. See? The hard part was just starting!
Yeah no shit the hard part was just starting. I can’t even get myself to sit down; how do you expect me to start whatever the fuck I was supposed to do?
I’m too busy running around my house organizing my pantry because a bag of chips was off, followed by a messy closet.
2. “Just go to sleep and get good rest”
Word has it that getting great sleep gives you more energy, less brain fog, helps you live longer, and more commitment to see things through.
Oh, I wasn’t aware.
That would all be wonderful, except I can’t get to bed at a decent time because I just spent the last three hours multitasking 12 things and accomplishing less than one. The other 11.25 are waiting for me tomorrow, once my brain actually decides to fall asleep…which is a daily battle.
Oh yeah, I forgot I have this thing called real life in the morning and responsibilities and all that shit (like a job). Well, there goes my desire to sleep in. There also goes my energy and zest for life.
3. “Just meditate”
You realize I suffer from distractions and the ability to focus, right? That also means I multitask for the sole reason that I can’t say no to every little thing I think of, or see.
You want me to forgo my love/hate relationship with multitasking to try and sit still for 20 minutes?
Meditation for a hyper mind is the equivalent of sending them to solitary confinement: you’re forced to be alone but you don’t want to be.
There’s one particular reason my mind loses focus — it’s because it happens to run at about 2,145 miles per hour. I don’t know what life is like without having multiple thoughts racing through my mind at the same time just about all day, every day.
Trying to slow that down with the intent to not think at all? That shit just doesn’t work easily.
4. “Just make a todo list”
So you’re basically telling me to transfer the regurgitation my brain tosses at me onto paper.
I can barely keep up with real life responsibilities, how am I supposed to keep up with my brain?
Sure, I can start a to-do list. Nothing will ever get checked off, though. Isn’t checking stuff off the point of a list? The whole idea of crossing things from the list gives you this feeling of accomplishment…or something.
What’s the opposite of that called? You know, where you write 15 things a day to do and they never get checked off the list.
Wait, I know. Distraction.
5. “Just do what you love and the focus will come with it”
”If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, and work won’t feel like a burden.”
That’s like winning the lottery without getting paid. Doing what you love so much that the time just flies by; otherwise known as the “flow zone”. Your focus is like a laser. Distractions stand no chance here.
Guess what, everyone wants that. And yet no one really gets there.
Yeah, even you — the person telling me to do what I love. How’s your less-than-ideal-but-it-pays-well corporate job working out?
My rent and student loans whisper sweet nothings in my ear about how painting or non-profit work won’t be enough to pay them off. But somehow, my job in corporate America will.
Well shit, maybe I’ll try next year.
6. “Just work on one thing at a time”
dis·trac·tion noun — a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.
Ok, let’s try one thing at a time. Then you realize that you are the definition of distraction.
The definition says it’s a thing that prevents me from giving my attention to that one thing I’m supposed to work on.
So I’m supposed to focus on one thing at a time but by definition I can’t focus on one thing because I’m giving my attention to something else. Throw me a bone here.
7. “Just unplug for a bit”
Do nothing? I can’t even do one thing, and you expect me to subtract one from one to get zero?
Nice try, but that’s not how this works. My mind is constantly working overtime, and last I checked I’m not a robot with an ‘off’ switch. It would be really helpful if I had one, but I don’t.
My chance to unplug is when I fall asleep, if that happens.
8. “Just get off of social media”
Ok, but I’ll just replace it with something else useless to distract me.
Once I realize that whatever I replaced it with is also useless, I’ll try to replace that with something useless. I’ll keep doing that until it comes back full circle, and I’m back on social media. Oh well.
Buzzfeed, here I come.
9. “Just tell yourself enough is enough”
Is this supposed to magically transform my mindset?
I think I heard this works when you’re rock bottom and trying to kick a bad habit. Unfortunately, a lack of focus isn’t always bad habit…it can be a chemical deficiency in the brain. You can’t just kick the habit to the curb because it no longer serves you.
If it was that easy, don’t you think we would have tried already?
Thanks for the keen advice though — I’ll remember it for next time I actually have an easy bad habit I can kick that doesn’t include my inability to focus.
10. “Just eat low carb or go keto”
BRB, let me just give up everything worth living for.
For those unaware, keto stands for ketogenic, and the idea is to eat basically no carbs so your body begins to use fat to burn off calories. In turn, your brain supposedly gets sharpened in the process because wheat and carbs and all that fun stuff lends itself to potential brain fog.
Wait no bread? No pizza? No pasta? No rice?
I don’t know about you, but I eat decently healthy and I still want to enjoy healthy sources of carbs. Entire cultures base their diets around carbs and studies have proven they live long, healthy lives. So why can’t I?
If I’m supposed to eat just meat and nuts and vegetables, I might dive off the deep end. What if I’m vegan or vegetarian? What are you supposed to eat, just vegetables and nuts?
Not all of us weigh 110 pounds and can sustain ourselves on 1,200 calories a day. Some people gotta eat. That includes me.
Vegetables and nuts won’t cut it.
11. “Just take Adderall/Vyvanse/some medication to focus”
Oh I didn’t think of this one, thanks…said no one ever.
Medication is a last resort that none of us really accept with the kind of open arms we reserve for hugging long lost relatives. We do it because we think there’s no other options left; we do it because we think it’s a necessary evil.
After we’ve exhausted every other resource, we turn to medication. It’s no joke that the current medications used to treat your inability to focus, potentially tied to ADD and ADHD, are pumped full of chemicals that alter how your brain works.
The real issue is the side effects — the loss of appetite, jitters, lack of libido, you name it. It’s not like we want these, but it’s a seesaw — on one end we have our ability to function, and on the other we have side effects. We have to balance what we think is worth giving up in the name of more focus and less brain fog.
Sure, some people may eagerly turn to medicine before trying to exhaust all other more natural remedies like diet or other supplements. But we still know the risks involved and play the balancing game.
So next time you think you’ve got it all figured out and you want to explain to me how easy it is to focus, let me give you a reality check.