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Getting Things Done with a Brain Injury

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?

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8 Responses to “Getting Things Done with a Brain Injury

  1. Jeanie Collitte

    I just wanted to say thank you for your visions of what it is really like to live with the after math of brain injury! Every day since 9-14-2011 has been a tremendous challenge for me as well as my family & friends! I to find my life now since the car accident that changed my life yet again since when I was a sophomore in college earning my BA in applied conflict management I was diagnosed with relapsing permitting multiple sclerosis, what can I really say I just love a good challenge! Thinking anything right now my intimate response to problem solving I am just looking for answers to.my endless questions of the new me.looking l

  2. I find it hard And frustrating not to have the powers of the ‘old’ me. Have only been suffering since aug 12 and not used to it yet so it’s good to read what you wrote. I am so demanding. I want to be just like or better than I was and I loathe the tiredness or swishy feelings in my head. I hope to become more tolerant and not so hard on myself but that will take time.

    • Hmmm…. yes, you need to be easy on yourself. Pushing through no matter what is not good. It just didn’t work for me after my injury. I didn’t even try because I just couldn’t do it. It was like the door slammed shut for me on how I used to be. Take it easy, be good to yourself, and set just little goals. It will get better.

  3. rhino

    Good Morning. I can no longer multitask. It doesn’t happen even on a good day. (before TBI I ran large crews and projects ) Now it is one thing at a time, finish it and move on to the next project. And the funny thing is I do not miss it all that much. Doing it as I do , leaves no loose ends to remember or fix. This is not the old me ( hard to get along with on a good day ) This is me after TBI. I know I will not get back all I lost. I am thankful that I can do what I can these days. TBI is a tough way to discover any thing. I was lucky and found me and you cannot ask for more than that.

    • I feel very much like you do. I am thankful for what I can do which is a lot. Its not like it used to be but I am content. I want to remember where I was 7 years ago when the injury happened and the progress I’ve made so far. It gives me a feeling of strength that I have been able to accomplish this. I keep looking for new goals to increase my level of improvement.

  4. great post. Thank you for sharing it on Stroke Suck’s facebook page. 🙂

  5. Hello All…

    I’m 52 y/o TBI survivor from a 1985 Motorcycle accident when i was 24 y/o. And during these past 25 or so years…you do learn to prioritize and set limits. Maybe not all at once…..but my biggest discovery I learn and RETAIN info If I do things over and over, Much like assembly-line type work. seth in Iowa

  6. I just read your post hear on what its like to muti task and use your brain to do so when have brain injury. I feel the same way gave me great encouragment to now that others are dealing with same stuff as me. I have been brain injureyed due to illness at 4 weeks old now 52. So i also deal with stuff like that every day. Thanks for shareing that and it was good to read. Wayne In Michigan

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