by Linda W. Arms
I do things in a more linear way these days. I can successfully manage one thing at a time. It is because I have a brain injury that I can no longer multi-task in the ways I did before my injury. Since my injury, my capabilities have improved tremendously but I am still far from where I used to be where I juggled multiple information technology projects; managed a group of 16 or more that was responsible for several aspects of technology in a large organization; taught classes after work; and managed all of life’s other aspects at the same time. I could easily jump from one topic to another and then back again. Those days are gone.
These days I can recognize several things that need to be taken care of, like a birthday coming up, having someone over for dinner, taking care of a personal business matter and a lot of other small matters. The problem is that I can’t work with a multiple of these things at the same time without difficulty and feeling overwhelmed.
What do I do? I look at my list of “to-do’s” and decide which needs my attention first. It might be just a small piece like “I have to order this book so it is here for my husband’s birthday”. I take care of ordering it and “put away” the other birthday tasks for a later date and not even think about it. Then I focus on accomplishing just that one other thing that I’ve identified as being the priority. In this way, I don’t have that feeling of overwhelm so I can give all my brain energy to one topic. I am more successful when I focus on one thing until I complete it because I don’t have to re-think things. In my opinion re-thinking takes up a lot of cognitive energy.
I also do not place a lot on my “to-do” list because I know I can’t be successful. I identify what is most important. There are things I just don’t do – they are no longer important in my life. I ask others for help. I remove distractions from around me so I can focus on what it is I am doing. I take “brain time-outs” sometimes for a whole day if I overdid it for a few days. Once you use up a lot of your cognitive energy, it is almost impossible to recover if you keep going and doing whatever used it up. You have to rest.
This blog is something on my “to-do” list these days but honestly it is low priority. I enjoy it and really love hearing from many of you but sometimes I have to put it aside like I have for the last week because I have to tend to other things that have become a priority. I do realize, however, that I can do more as each year goes by. My daily planner is essential and keeps track of things for my brain. What tips do you have for those of us who have problems multi-tasking or getting easily overwhelmed by just a short list of things to do?