the inner nag / task switching

October 8, 2015

Part 1: Written ~10 days ago
Yesterday, I arrived home from work with 3 “open charts.”  For the non-medical crowd, these charts are virtual these days — since our records are electronic.  (NOTE:  while the systems are imperfect, this is one area where I do not bemoan the loss of paper one bit!)

It was rainy and I pulled in right at 6pm.  I had a finite slice of time with A&C — Cameron’s bedtime is still around 7:15, and Annabel usually follows between 8 and 8:30.  We played and ran around and it was nice, but my mind kept circling back to 3 charts, 3 charts, 3 charts.  A relentless drone attempting to ruin my tiny chunk of family time.  Interspersed with the chart chorus were a few other stern reminders: PCOS presentaton; respond to email; renew DEA number.

I ended up finishing the 3 charts while A watched an episode of Angelina Ballerina.  Of note, she typically watches a show (part or whole) each night while I put C to bed, because otherwise he doesn’t get any one-on-one time with me.  I use Angelina to distract her while I read him stories and tuck him in, and it works.  Given that the show is an hour, yesterday I was also able to finish the 3 charts.  YAY.

But ugh.  Those annoying, distracting thoughts!  Why did they have to dominate the evening?  And this is just an example.  I want to be fully present with A&C during kid-time.  I want to get into the flow of work while I’m seeing patients and writing notes.  I really try to avoid multitasking and constant task switching to the extent possible, but I cannot block these constant thought intrusions.  While writing up a consult, I might all of the sudden realize that OMG I NEED A BABYSITTER FOR OCTOBER 17th or I NEED TO ORDER MORE DISHWASHER PODS ASAP.  I suppose one technique could be writing these sorts of things down (and getting back to the task at hand), but I’d rather prevent them from popping up in the first place.

Potential strategies:
writing it all down (sort of bullet journal/getting things done approach)

Just kidding on that last one.  (I think.)

Part 2: Progress
One weekend away, 8 days straight of meditation (for 5-10 minutes each!), significantly less screen/phone time, and careful attention to what is actually going on my to-do list for each day — and I’m actually doing a lot better with this.  I am not sure what the magic component has been, but I cannot tell you how much a) more pleasant and b) more productive life has felt when I am not constantly pulled in 27 different directions by my own jumbled nervous system.  I think the keys have been:

* the meditation.  Seriously, somehow having this little grounding session in the morning does seem to do . . . something.

* spending ~5 minutes each morning to physically write out a template for each day in my planner, including separate work and home to-dos.  I will demonstrate my new layout in a future post!

* taking any distracting thoughts/random task-based stressors and  — instead of ruminating — just accepting them,  writing them down, either in today’s space or on my weekly page.

* getting up early enough so that the mornings are not rushed and I can get through the above planning process

* reminding myself several times a day of my goal to stay present in each moment (sounds cheesy, but it is necessary)

* keeping my phone out of reach upon arriving home from work

* staying OFF of Facebook entirely

I am sure I have not discovered the secret to no distraction anymore, ever! — but things really do seem to have improved, both at work and at home.  In the past week, I have finished the 2014 photobook (YES!), completed a draft of a work presentation (and presented it) and have stuck with my planned runs/barre sessions.  And it has actually felt good, not stressful.

Hopefully the trend will continue . . .


  • Reply Sheryl March 10, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    I am totally inspired by this! I am a PhD student and spend a lot of time working at home– BUT, I have such difficulty staying on task during the day. I find distracting things around the house, I remember that I need to buy a birthday gift, I need to pay a bill, etc. Then, when I don’t get everything accomplished that I set out to do, I am super distracted in the evening when my daughter is home (thinking, "3 more chapter summaries" or "I need to read 3 more articles"). But, I didn’t have any real strategies in place to help me focus– I’m going to give some of yours a try! Thanks!

  • Reply Laura March 10, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    I struggle with many of the same items you listed in Part I during the workday and it is very distracting. I do find that immediately writing things down in my planner helps me refocus. When I get home, I feel guilty if I can’t put 100% focus on my daughter because we have to rush to make dinner and prep for the following day. Putting my phone away until she goes to bed is an excellent idea.

  • Reply Ana March 10, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Obviously I completely relate to part 1. I’ll admit I’ve been terrible about taking any action about it so far, though. I am re-committing to putting my phone away in the evenings (at least until kids are in bed) & weekends and this morning—100% due to reading your post!—I finally did day 1 of the mindfulness 7-day intro on the app I downloaded (Calm). Writing things down always helps me, too. I feel like I can take it out of my head as long as I know its somewhere I won’t forget it. I’m also considering the idea of setting aside 10-15 minutes each evening to deal with those little nagging tasks so I don’t feel compelled to do them during work or during family time (order birthday gift for upcoming party, write thank you cards from L’s party, order pull ups on amazon, schedule B’s aftercare classes, etc…)
    You sound like you’re on a great roll these days! Go you!

  • Reply Ameena March 10, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Had to laugh at the dishwasher pods…I am totally guilty of this. My nervous system is ALL OVER THE PLACE and it’s so frustrating. I’ve been doing Headspace meditation since February and it’s helped but some days I simply can’t breathe I feel like I have so much to do and so much on my mind.

    Good to know that I’m not alone.

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