Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Breathe

I just realized -- with the help of Tom pointing it out -- that I tend to hyper-focus in my life... sometimes to the exclusion of other important things, people (especially?!), tasks or experiences. This can be a good thing when it comes to deadlines or major milestones, but when it's a constant thing it can be destructive.

When I was in college, I was hyper-focused so I could get into a great graduate school. I went to college on the BEACH in Santa Barbara (UCSB), fergoodness-sake, but I spent 100 times the amount of hours in the library that I spent at the beach! Why? So I could go further. "Further" turned out to be Stanford graduate school, but when I was there, I hyper-focused so I could get a great job in educational media... which turned out to be Disney.. And when I was at Disney -- well, yeah.

Somewhere in there I got married and had four kids within five years -- which was, fortunately, its own hyper-focus because I took seven years out of my career to do so -- and I threw myself completely into that, too. Hopefully, that focus has stayed with me through it all. I mean, I AM aware that there's nothing more important than family. I DO feel that down to my core and deep in my heart.

But Tom's right: I tend to get REALLY into whatever it is I'm into.

When I was making FUEL and CHILL, I was hyper-focused because... well, because it was necessary to get those videos produced, but also because I tend to pour myself into my projects. I tried to explain away my distance by insisting that such time and energy was critical to the project. While I'm sure those videos are better products because of my dedication, I'm not sure such total focus was necessary.

And now I'm doing it again. This job is demanding, in terms of day-to-day duties, but also with some unexpected issues that take extra time and energy... so here I go again. And this time it's made me physically ill. I need to learn how to dedicate myself to my career without being obsessed with or overcome by it. I need to learn how to put in a good eight-hour day and then leave -- physically and emotionally. I need to learn how to shut off my career-woman brain and turn on my wife-and-family heart -- every single day. Too often I keep both running full-speed -- to the detriment of either being done well.

I need to learn to breathe. I think the fact that I now have bronchitis (yet went to work today...) and have a hard time breathing is poignant and telling.

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4 comments:

vailian said...

You are on the right track. Your energy and ability to solve problems are your strength, and you will never be happy as one of the baking-cakes-and-Tupperware-parties type of housewife. You would have gone nuts if you had deliberately given up completely on a career.
That said, you need to realize that your life doesn't necessarily have to proceed at the same pace it did when you were 20.
Now you can have a few more days on the beach.

Lilly said...

My approach to work is like yours. Given a task I can't rest until it's complete and done as well as I can do it. I'm a get up early, stay late kind of worker also. Of course the problem with this approach is that there's always another task right behind or overlapping the one you're working on so there really is no rest unless you make it for yourself.

I checked out your link to CHILL. I guess there are a lot of good tips right there.

But I know it's hard to change work habits. The only way I can get through a task sometimes is to think of it as kind of a crisis and focus, focus, focus.

Hope you're feeling all better soon.

Dixie said...

I think you got my allotment of hyper-focus because I am terrible at being focused on a goal. Not in an ADD sort of way but I'm too impatient to buckle down and stay on the task at hand. I'm getting better about it though.

I hope you're feeling better soon. Get some rest so you don't get sicker!

Peter H said...

There is a lot to be said for finding the time.....NO.....making the time for a modest amount of exercise. Swimming, or "chasing a black line" creates a focus outside of all else, and they still have no other way of reaching you except a tap on the head as you turn. Plus water is a great relaxant. Afterall, your first 9 months are spent in fluid!

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