Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Overwhelmed Overcame

I was a bit overwhelmed the last few days

I was at capacity and then my little puppy started limping- this sort of put me over capacity, made me angry, and in turn made me exceedingly grumpy and short tempered- which in turn led to more self-loathing and a vicious feedback loop.

Well - so what do you do when you are overwhelmed??? For me there are a few options

1) sleep, read, bury head in the sand. In general this is not a very desirable solution because you dont improve your state but in fact become more overwhelmed as things pile up - (duh!). Also not only that but your escape will be invaded by thoughts of all the things that you are not doing - making your sleep, reading,etc much less useful which brings me to step 2

2) stop multitasking -
for better or for worse I am a multitasking monster - I know most people are anti - multi tasking these are my thoughts on the matter
- you should do everything with utmost mindfullness and focus - most of the time - this actually leads to less stress and more productivity because
HOWEVER if you are learning something or trying to absorb something - i think total mindfulness and focus sometimes hurt me - I need to lull myself into a relaxed state where my unconscious is absorbing information, rather than my conscious self forcing me to focus. I suppose that during a state of mindfulness you should not be thinking about mindfulness and so maybe my multitasking paradoxically make me mindful. I dont know. What I like to think of is context switching and computer processes. A computer has many process running at a particular time - monitoring programs, internet connectivity (just to name a two). These tasks are not running at the same force, but if an event triggers a task, such as incoming email triggering your email application - then your email application will come to the fore. This is how I feel I multitask. There are a number of tasks going on in the background of my mind- many of which I am not (or try not) to be consciously aware of - unless something forces me to put that task in the forefront of my mind.

Multitasking it seems also aids my memory. For example, I generally program to lectures, podcasts and talk radio - not music. Programming for me a mindless activity. I know what I want to do before I start and then I let my unconscious take over and write the software. By simultaneously writing software and listening to talk radio - a strange phenomena occurs. I am able to recall code that I wrote while listening to certain bits of talk. It is a very visual sensation for me - like the code chuncks are lodged in a piece of text. I still remember some trade reconciliation code I wrote about 5 years ago that became lodged in a teri gross piece on Jane Fonda's autobiography 'my life'.

It is sort of like a memory palace I unconsciousnessly stick bits of code in audio recordings. My memory palace is talk radio..

But when I am overwhelmed, I need to stop multitasking - multitasking has the strange habit of making it seem like you have more to do - rather than help you do more in less time - so I stop trying to do it all at once .

3) I Make a list and a schedule. A list itemizes what I need to do - a schedule makes time for everything i need to do. This two acts externalize some of my feelings of stress that accompanies being overwhelmed. Slowly as you cross things off your list or proceed with your schedule you feel physical release. Being overwhelmed is a physical state as much as a mental state.

4) Include your daily habits in your schedule. I always include some music practice time into my schedule (either guitar keyboard or drums) although it is not actually helping you get anything done and feel less overwhelmed - it will make you feel happy and like a human being. other things I try and schedule for are workouts (a run or kung fu) and general inspiration time. In the morning - I always like to pick out some weird book I have and mull it over during coffee. Today I looked at Kites by David Pelham - about kite construction and the history of kites. I am not building a kite - and i rarely think about kites - that is why it is so much fun to pick up a book like this and skim it over coffee.

Note on the dog -
(I took him to the vet and he is on some meds. the limp is improving and hopefully he wont need surgury - phew)

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