Battling the Scattered Mind

At almost any given time, day or night, my mind is going in a million different directions:

  • I really need to buy some new clothes.
  • What do I need to prioritize at work?
  • Did I forget to put any important dates in my calendar?
  • I really need to vacuum and mop.
  • Am I forgetting to pay any bills?
  • Did I forget to respond to any texts/emails/invites?
  • Should I change the look of our business website, or leave it alone?
  • Does Barry (the dragon) need fresh worms or crickets?
  • What can I cook for dinner that everyone will actually eat?

This is just a tiny glimpse of the thoughts racing around in my head at the moment. Simply writing that list was difficult – picking out a single thought is next to impossible with everything swirling around up there.

This post took weeks to write...

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, it’s obvious I’m not a professional writer. I’m simply attempting to organize my thoughts into something cohesive. Writing blog posts is a therapeutic exercise, allowing me to block out some of the chaos in my head and focus in on a task. When I finally get in the zone, my scattered mind calms down and I temporarily forget about everything else. But it can be really difficult to get started.

The other night, Charlotte and I were texting, and she asked if I was posting again soon. My response: “I can’t seem to get my thoughts organized to start a new post. I made an attempt last week, but it fell flat. I’m in the brainstorming phase…”

I frequently come up with ideas for new posts, really good ideas (or so I think). But it’s always at random times, when I’m busy doing something, like cooking. Then, when I’m in front of my computer and have free time to write, my mind goes blank. That’s not true. It goes into overdrive.

Back to my text conversation… I (half) jokingly told Charlotte that my next post might be about how scatterbrained I am and how hard it is to focus on one thing. She replied “That post idea is highly relatable,” so here we are.

How I coped in the past...

In years past, when I felt anxious or overwhelmed, I would clean. My house was spotless. I assume my scattered mind and racing thoughts made me feel like I wasn’t in control, and cleaning was a way to feel like I had control over something?

If cleaning didn’t do the trick, I would read. As soon as I finished one book, I would immediately start another. Reading was my obsession, my escape from the pressures of the real world. Every now and then, my thoughts would intrude, and I would end up reading the same sentence, or paragraph, 3-4 times. But eventually, I was always able to get lost in my fiction.

Nowadays, my thoughts can overwhelm me to the point that I’m immobilized. I just sit and stare at nothing. Then I feel like a lazy piece of crap because I’m not getting anything done. My house is in a state that is well below my standards. I have read only a handful of books in the last several years. I am the most unproductive that I have ever been in my 40+ years.

False perceptions?

I have this impression that everyone else has their sh*t together, or at least it’s a lot more together than my sh*t. Charlotte assures me that is not the case; it’s all a facade.

According to Charlotte, I’m one of the most ‘together’ people she knows – the opposite of a hot mess. Maybe she gets that impression because I stay in control of my emotions (for the most part), and don’t let it show that my brain’s CPU needs an upgrade?

As I’ve previously mentioned on the blog, I’m very ‘meh.’ Will and the kids love to joke about how “Mom never smiles.” I do smile. Sparingly. The same goes for expressing anxiety or worries – I mostly keep those to myself. So maybe it does seem to other people that I have it together? My ‘meh’ demeanor is my facade?

Or, maybe I really do have a decent handle on things, and I just feel like I need to do more, or do better? Maybe my expectations for myself are too high? I put too much pressure on myself?

How do we win the battle?

In reality, I know that everyone else doesn’t have their sh*t together. I’m not the only one battling a scattered mind. So, what do people do to focus, to organize their thoughts and be productive?

Simply acknowledging that it’s become a problem for me seems to be a good start. Just now, while writing this paragraph, I took a break and vacuumed the floor at my office. I’ve been saying I needed to vacuum for a week, and I finally did it. And it feels good to accomplish something, to complete a task.

I recently began reading a new book. It’s been nice rediscovering that avenue of escape when I’m feeling overwhelmed. However, I have to limit myself; otherwise, I can get caught up in my fiction world for hours-on-end.

While writing this, I read quite a few blog posts related to taming scatterbrain. I particularly liked this one from I’m not going to list out all of the tips and tricks, but check it out if you’re looking for advice.

Finally, maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about winning the battle against my scattered mind. Yes, I do need to get a handle on it so that I’m actually productive, rather than existing in an immobilized state. But a disorganized brain isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to this article in TIME, which suggests that “the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are.” This blog post on Your Tango takes it a step further, saying scatterbrained people are basically geniuses.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a genius. But, if the shoe fits….