Tag Archives: Focus

Lazy

I don’t seem to be writing blog posts any more – at least not many compared to previous years. I was pondering why I was so uninspired to write.

We have done many interesting crafts and activities. We have gone on some adventures. I have done several small and large play space modifications. Yet, I have done very few posts about any of these things.

Is it a result of the pandemic? Maybe, though most of the restrictions have had very little impact on my day-to-day work life which is why there should be more posts to write. So, why am I not writing them?

Is it lack of time? Maybe, though I have always had long work hours and still managed to find time to write blog posts. Sure, sometimes I have a lot of bookkeeping work that is more urgent/time sensitive so blog posts have to wait. I have recently begun a couple of new projects that had necessary writing components but nothing that required vast amounts of time.

All of the committees I volunteer on have been meeting virtually – this has actually decreased the time commitment. There is no traveling time to/from the meetings and virtual meetings tend to be shorter than in-person ones which have more social interactions. Virtual ones are less fun though – often frustrating – and even somewhat depressing.

So maybe it isn’t the lack of actual time available outside my regular work and volunteer commitments that is the issue. Maybe the problem is the increased screen time. I have always struggled to stay focused on a screen for any length of time. I can’t fathom how teachers and students of any age can manage with online learning exclusively – even briefly. I personally would find it impossible. I struggle to focus on watching or listening to anything on a screen without something hands on to do.

I haven’t gone to a movie theater in over 30 years because there is no way I can sit in a seat though a whole movie with no commercial breaks or pause button. I don’t binge watch anything – in fact, I have some of my exercise equipment handy so I can keep ‘busy’ (active) while watching TV. Plus, I’m often baking things as well – hence the need for the commercial breaks and pause button. I’ve been known to wander away, get busy elsewhere and forget I was supposed to be watching something.

Of course, if too much screen time is the problem then going outside is the solution. Screen time can be overstimulating – a sensory overload that zaps creativity. Most certainly I will be much happier outside but not necessarily more productive. Yes, going outside is refreshing and offers a ‘reset’ when I am overwhelmed or stressed, but does not always help me focus.

Outside I can can completely lose track of time, daydreaming, getting lost in my imagination. It is a wonderful place for reflection, and wonder but there are far too many distractions for me to stay focused on an activity like writing a blog post. In fact, just writing about going outside is currently distracting be from finishing this post.

Outdoors is relaxing – an opportunity to unwind and feel grounded. Working in the garden, exploring the neighbourhood or going on long hikes provide connections to nature. So many things to hear, see, smell and feel. None of these activities feel like exercise to me. Even very physical outdoor activities like shoveling snow or completing major landscaping projects don’t feel as strenuous as a gym workout.

So, maybe I’ve now figured out what the problem is…

The gym is closed – and even for the brief periods they have been allowed to open, they had limited hours and did not open early enough for me to go. Many years ago, when I first joined a gym, I went in the evening after work. I quickly discovered that this was a bad idea. After a high intensity workout I am so energized that there is absolutely no chance I would be going to bed any time soon. For a morning person like me, late nights mean no sleep at all since I simply cannot sleep past dawn and actually prefer to get up before the sun.

So, for me, the best time for a visit to the gym is 4 or 5 AM several times each week. High intensity cardio between sets of weight training and my mind is racing – writing posts, planning activities and designing spaces – and it keeps going all day long, The limited space and equipment I have available at home just doesn’t provide the same opportunity for this type of workout.

Hence, I feel lazy, unmotivated and unable to focus. I am still getting things done but it is taking me a lot longer. This simple blog post has taken several hours over many days. I could normally finish a post like this in under an hour after an invigorating morning gym workout.

Early morning is my most productive period and that is the part of my daily routine that has been significantly disrupted. It is the high intensity morning workout that I need to kick-start my day and improve my ability to focus.

Space & Time

It is no secret that I prefer to be outdoors with the children instead of indoors. It is probably also not surprising that I spend a lot of time creating indoor and outdoor play environments. However, it may not be common knowledge that I really dislike planning group activities.

Autumn/Fall tends to make me a little anxious. I love taking long hikes and marveling at the colours and watching busy squirrels but fall is a transition season. After all our long summer days outside the children are starting to complain that it is getting far too cold to enjoy their favourite activities. Many fall days have frigid winter temperatures but there is little or no snow to make the cold exciting. I start to dread the thought of spending more time indoors – confined – bored – bickering – whining. *sigh*

So I start to plan for some additional activities that we can do indoors when it gets too cold to play outdoors for long periods. This year I had some activities that I was quite eager to try. There were even a few fall days when I considered trying them but I didn’t – because it wasn’t yet too cold to go outside to play – except it is never actually too cold to play outside. In fact, so far this winter there has only been one day that we didn’t go outside at all – and then the children were upset when it was lunch time and they realized they missed our outdoor time.

Most days this winter we have been outside for 1-2 hours and once you add the time for everyone to get dressed and undressed that is the entire time between morning snack and lunch. We haven’t needed additional indoor activities to keep us busy. On the contrary, all that ‘bored, bickering, whining’ stuff I was stressing about is because indoors we have too many transitions and not enough uninterrupted time.

We actually have too much to do inside – too many things, too many choices, too many distractions, too many disruptions and not enough space and time. In the confined indoor space every time someone picks up a toy, or moves to a different spot, or the phone rings, or someone comes to the door it changes the focus of all the other children in the room. The last thing I want to do is initiate yet another activity and create another transition.

Transitions – arrivals, departures, meal prep/cleanup, diaper changes/bathroom breaks, etc – even if they don’t involve the busy children, they are distractions that interrupt their play. They notice when I walk toward the kitchen and one of them will announce that it is time to clean up for lunch – it is not but someone will assume it is and an argument will ensue. The children have difficulty engaging in any activity because they are anticipating what is ‘next’ – no one is actually playing. They are in limbo, watching and waiting.

I can relate. I often put off doing paperwork, writing blog posts, working on my website etc – not because I don’t want to do it but because I know I won’t have enough time to fully engage in the activity and be able to finish what needs to be done. So instead of getting a little bit of work done I get none done because I didn’t even attempt to start.

Planned group activities don’t help the children. Certainly they can briefly create an artificial period of engagement and can effectively redirect when the children are in battle mode. However, they also create more transitions and ultimately they just make it more difficult for the children to make their own independent activity choices – the way they do when we are outside.

When we are outside, even though my yard is not huge, there is still more separation between the various play areas than there is indoors making it easier for the children to sustain their focus on one activity without being distracted by others playing elsewhere in the yard. My activities are also not a distraction when we are outdoors. I have several benches around the periphery of the yard that make it easy to blend in to the environment and observe the children without disturbing their play. I am present but not involved, not directing.

Indoors we have many of the same activity choice as we do outdoors – even many gross motor opportunities (that will be another post) but indoors there is less space and I am closer which makes the children less likely to engage in self-directed activities. When I am close their questions are endless; “What are you doing? Where are you going? Can I see in that box? Are we going to do a craft? What was that noise? Who is at the door/upstairs/in the kitchen?” They are not engaged in play because I am a distraction.

When I am too close there is an expectation that I will assist them, I will solve their problems, I will entertain them and they don’t need to do anything. In a small confined space it is more difficult for me to allow them more time to solve problems and I am more likely to redirect their activities. My involvement often increases the likelihood that they will do it again – there is a lot more testing of limits as I become a prop in their cause and effect experiments.

So, I don’t want to plan more activities – we don’t need more activities. I need to tweak our schedule and indoor environment to give us more space and uninterrupted time – or we could just go outside.