Focus and Flow

I like playing on

It’s cute and silly. The basic concept is that you gamify habits you want to create and keep. You can join a party and do quests to defeat monsters. You “attack” by staying on habit.

What I’m really using it for now, rather than specific habits in specific areas, is balance.

I keep my house clean. I work out regularly. My diet is as good as it needs to be.

What I am having a problem with is obsessiveness with one activity to the exclusion of others. While it’s okay to have a Major Focus, I don’t think it’s okay to let everything slide in the face of that.

A skill I’d like to develop now, and one I haven’t before, is the ability to hyperfocus not based on what seems shiny at the moment, but what needs to be done.

I knit well because I got obsessed with it for a while then went on to another thing. Same with my sewing abilities, or my skill with spreadsheets and various other things. For the most part, I think that’s okay. Obsessions can be fun and useful, and the hyperfocus I apply to them has netted me a wide range of skills over the years.

What I don’t like is when I’m focused on knitting, I don’t want it to be hard to think about swimming, or when I’m focused on weight training, I don’t want it to be hard to focus on teaching, and so on.

The skill I want to develop now is that of being able to choose to pay attention rather than randomly focusing on what seems like most fun at the time.

What, you mean like actual grown-up self-discipline?

Yeah, pretty much. I can do it a little. I’d like to be able to do it nearly on-demand. Yes, this article is part of that — writing my 750 words every day!

The problem is that I feel like my time is so often chopped into little pieces. I’m fine with context switching from time to time, but it’s really hard to get into that flow state if the phone is ringing or someone is asking for my attention or help. Creation becomes hard that way. I am sure that at least in part, my focus on knitting had to do with the fact the projects I choose are easily picked up and put down. Same with my sewing.

I am also sure that’s part of why I love swimming so much, and why I resist certain types of training. That flow state is easier in the pool when you’re just swimming those long, slow distances. You swim and while you’re thinking about your stroke and balance and what have you but after a awhile, your mind grows quiet and your body just takes over and you go.

Writing is also like that when you get a large swathe of time. You write, letting your thoughts flow out into the computer. Your surroundings disappear and it’s only what you want to communicate and convey that becomes the whole of the Universe.

I adore that feeling.

It has been postulated, and I think with some justification, that women are socialized to make flow states difficult. We must have some part of our attention out for others. We cannot do anything or dive into anything that allows us to ignore the demands of others. Even when we try to break out of this, our socialization will slam back pretty hard.

Can we simply announce, “Hey I want some time to myself” and then get it?

I can.

But the ground state presumption is that I’m available mentally and emotionally for interaction.

I sometimes wonder if that is why I tend to guard my solitude so very carefully. When I am able to be fully and utterly alone is when I can do and create better. Certainly that’s why swimming holds such an attraction to me, and why the idea of training on a team holds almost none.

It’s not that I won’t get better/faster doing intervals and watching the clock and interacting with other members of the team and coaches to get feedback. Totally will. There’s no doubt at all about that. And for things I really want to do, I do need to get better/faster.

But that means it would be one more aspect of my life where the opportunity for flow is taken away.

And that does more than irritate me. It actually scares me a little.

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