Thursday, April 11, 2013

Random Thoughts on the Art of Staying Focused

…as my ability to focus diminishes over time

People tell stories of walking into a room and immediately forgetting why he or she entered the room. That occasionally happens to me, but I am experiencing a different but probably related phenomenon.

I am in one space, working or reading or writing, and march into another room to grab something – a book, the laundry, my phone – or do something, such as get a cup of coffee, make the bed, or empty the dishwasher.

I arrive at my intended destination and begin doing something totally unrelated to my original intention.  For instance, I just returned from my bedroom. I went in to retrieve a couple of pictures. Instead I headed directly for the bathroom and put on make up.

It is the middle of the day, but I had not gotten around to that task earlier. Later this afternoon I am heading out and will be in the presence of other people, so applying some makeup was a desirable mission. After my exercise class this morning I came home, showered, but never quite finished getting myself together for the rest of the day.

Until now. When finished I walked into the kitchen and suddenly realized why I went into the bedroom in the first place.

Call it whatever you want. Unfocused. Senseless. Forgetful. Unattentiveness (or is it inattentiveness?).

On the way to accomplish one task, I successfully complete another. That is not all bad, but does get disconcerting.

I have no idea what this behavior means. I guess one way to avoid it is to reduce activity involving mobility; get settled after breakfast and not move until lunchtime. Not very practical.

I must attempt to stay focused.

I could make a to-do list. I am very good at deciding to make a list and beginning a list. But then I lose the list. Or forget I started one. Or begin another. Suddenly I have several pieces of paper with a couple of to-dos written on each one. Once more confusion reigns.

I could create the list on my iPhone, but do not yet know how to do that. And I am not in the habit of carrying my iPhone around with me all day, like so many members of the younger generations. When home I usually place my phone on the kitchen counter and leave it there. It remains there for hours, undisturbed, unless it rings. I might not hear it if I am in another part of the house, but I can always call someone back. That is what we did in the good old days.

Uh oh. Now I am really feeling old and outdated, talking about the good old days. They may not have been so good. And, relatively speaking, they may not have occurred so long ago. I am out of touch with the rest of the fast-paced, fast-moving, tech-focused world.

And that brings me right back to my problem. Focus. A lot of the time I am not.


The doorbell is ringing. Actually it is my phone, which happens to sound like a doorbell. We do not have a doorbell.

I should answer it.

I will get back to this conundrum momentarily. Maybe. If I remember. If I get focused. And stay focused.

Answer the phone. Wait, it stopped ringing.

So what am I going to make for dinner?...


  1. I make the problem worse by trying to get organized.
    Later when I look for something that I "organized" I can't remember where I put it.
    My wife says I'm to blame. If I did not try to be so organized I would know where I put things!
    Here's a funny quote:
    "Organized people are just too lazy to go back and look for things"

  2. I have a teflon brain these days -- nothing sticks to it!!!!

  3. My short-term memory is so bad now that I don't always successfully navigate to the end of my sentences. I stop somewhere and put on makeup instead. (That's metaphorical. I don't put on makeup.) I think that's why I like writing. By the time I get something put together, people think I can think coherently.

  4. The same thing happens to me all the time. I cannot blame it on age either. Attention Deficit Disorder--Inattentive Type, they used to call it.

  5. You are definitely not alone in this phenomenon. As for lists, I get a kick out of using Workflowy ( You can list as much as you want, but if you group items by category, you can "focus" on everything in that category on a separate page -- getting ready for a particular trip or event, for instance, or everything you need to do next Tuesday -- and print out just that much. It sends you emails after you add an item. It's fun. And free.

  6. And did you know that some cholesterol meds do cause short term memory issues? It was so bad that I quit taking them because I'd rather be dead than take them.

  7. It's a well-known but minor affliction that sometimes affects people as they get older, called ... uh, called ... er, what's it called?

  8. OMG. I got up this morning, poured coffee and dropped some bread in the toaster. I went into the bedroom to get my glasses so I could read the paper and stripped the bed, heard the toast pop, went back into the kitchen and realized I did not have my glasses. I went back into the bedroom, picked up the sheets and took them to the laundry room. I am cursed. It only got worse from there. Now I need to make a list to go from one room to the next.