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Remaining Focused Not Always Easy
Tuesday, February 2, 2010 • Posted February 2, 2010

I have always been a bit short in the attention department. As a child, people politely noticed that I had a tendency to daydream a bit. As I got older, politeness began to wane, and people were prone to notice that I was "drifting."

As a fan of James Thurber's iconic daydreamer, Walter Mitty, I don't really mind falling into this category. Mitty, you might recall, could not make it through the day without "drifting away" into his daydreams about the possibilities of his life. They were innocent constructions of fantasy, and Walter an affable passenger on the daydream express.

For me, such inattention is annoyingly distracting. If I'm sitting in a meeting, I really need to concentrate on what is being said and voted upon so that I can construct an accurate report of that meeting. And yet, I find myself noticing a bit of cloud through the window and wondering if it is building into a storm. I look at the door moulding and try to discern if it is original to the building or a replacement done at some time in the building's history. I hear a conversation in the hallway and wonder if those folks know that we can hear them discussing their most recent ailments.

And then I refocus.... back to the meeting... back to today.

I'm always amused when I hear that someone "has too much on their plate." I've actually been in that situation more than once, and had to cut back on my involvements so that I would be able to give the things most dear to me my full (or at least closer) attention. By the same token, I'm always just as amused to hear that someone can only do "one thing at a time." None of us do just one thing at a time.

Ranchers fix a little fence while they're feeding the cattle and check the water troughs. Housewives pick up toys while vacuuming and dusting. I talk on the phone while typesetting copy and editing photos. The popular term, currently, is multitasking. Some of us do it better than others.

I will often be on the phone, reading my mail, checking email, looking at photos, checking websites and editing copy, all at the same time. My actual focus changes constantly as each task requires different amounts of my attention. Quite often, I'll reach the end of the day, surprised at how much (or how little) I've accomplished, as it all blurs together as part of the day's activities. It's not unusual to reach day's end and not even remember having completed some of the tasks I've handled that particular day.

Tuesdays are particularly prone to "drifting." I'm laying out the newspaper, checking with Donna about the location of ads, double checking with T. J. about placement preferences, uploading pages to the press, watching email for late arriving stories or ads, checking with Gayle on the deposit, conferring with Tom on Wednesday's schedule for delivery, talking to Scott about payroll.... and, always, there is a deadline to meet and schedules to keep.

And we all do it. Even with all that we have on our plates, we get all the little things done, work on the big things, and keep moving. And in between, we daydream about sandy beaches and warmer weather, about boat rides down lazy rivers, about places we'd rather be.

And we wake up just long enough to finish what we're doing, and we move on.

It’s all just my opinion.

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