Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Too Much of a Good Thing

A few weeks ago I found myself wasting some time in the Powell St Shopping Plaza in Emeryville. Some stressed guy was debating jumping off the Bay Bridge and I was hoping to wait it out while getting a retail therapy fix. By the time I was done and with refrigerator food from Trader Joe's I attempted to leave the worst designed parking lot in the world. If you've ever been there you would agree. If not, just take my word, I'm really correct. In any case, I was heading out and encountered a group of three people deeply engaged in conversation. So deeply engaged that they didn't notice me behind them. For about 2 minutes. I wasn't in a rush, and was curious how long it would take to notice me if I didn't beep or make any noise. 2 minutes, 4 seconds. A lifetime really. In those 2 minutes and 4 seconds, I realized that it is in fact possible for intense focus to be a bad thing.

Many of us attempt to multitask on a regular basis with varying success. Chances are you are doing something else right now as you read this entry. If I focus on one thing at a time (writing distractions down on a list to get back to later) I can often accomplish more and with better results. When doing work that I dislike I will take on any task possible - a welcome distraction, but still a distraction from my primary task. But when I'm doing something I really enjoy, I get caught up in it and lose complete track of time.

If I'm working on a painting, things just happen, ideas just flow out of me and I am often more pleased with it than one I start and stop again and again. That flow is what I look forward to when I sit down to paint. Observing that same deeply engaged flow in the form of a conversation walking slowly down a parking lot is just damn annoying.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a good conversation but is it because they dragged me in on it inadvertently (for 2 minutes and 4 seconds) that makes it selfish and wrong? I mean there is no way for me to get that time back.

Okay, you all have been quiet. Engage me in conversation and tell me about times you've been focused to a fault. Was it good? Bad? Embarrassing?

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