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Technology: Destroyer of Dreams

I live alone and I am not self-motivated. Add high-speed Internet and a computer to that mix and hours of unproductive time in front of a screen easily ensue. I get up every morning and go out for a coffee. While in the car on the way to and from the coffee shop, my mind teems with ideas, but by the time I get back and plop down in my computer chair, the ideas all but vanish, along with the motivation that had seemed so promisingly potent just a few minutes before.

Today, I am noticing and observing my urge to surf the net, to repeatedly check email and Facebook, and to peruse flight deals on Kayak for trips I am NOT taking. I am in this moment plagued by that funk, that slightly sunken mood that renders me unproductive. I have notions about working on my book and brainstorming video scripts, but I don’t have that oomph that creative writing requires. I almost never have that oomph! This is the battle I struggle with every single day.

The ease of access of technology makes the battle harder to win, because the Internet soothes me by giving me something “satisfying” to do that I don’t have to work for, and that I can reliably do even when I am in the deepest of funks. When I click to refresh my inbox, there is a subtle and instantaneous anticipation that a new message could arrive. I feel that in my gut, a subtle sensation of expectation. If no new, non-spam messages arrive, I can check Facebook to see if there’s a new notification, friend request or interesting newsfeed piece. I might even espy an article that outrages me, and then I can get energized to respond. If these two sites provide no satisfaction, I go to LinkedIn, and check out stories about business and read articles on how to find a job, even though I am not looking for one.

Technology makes many aspects of my life easier, but it also messes with my mind. I have click-itis, that disease that warps the mind by giving instant satisfaction via a micro movement of the index finger. I can sit and click for hours upon hours, and I cannot, or do not, stop!

For me, technology quickly becomes addictive; it harms me by distracting me from what I really want to accomplish. I continue this behavior in spite of the negative consequences, which are nothing short of destroying, or at least delaying, my dreams. When I merrily click away, I am not writing; I am not doing the hard work of distilling my message; I am not in integrity with myself or the people who look to me for guidance. My relation to technology has an impulse-control aspect, because I often “play” online for hours, when I had simply gone on the computer to check and respond to email for fifteen minutes. Technology wastes my times, and lays waste to my dreams.

Here are some signs that you, like me, might have a problematic relationship to technology.

1. Time warp: inability to determine screen time.
2. Changes or disruptions in sleep.
3. Emotional disturbance when you are deprived of the screen.
4. Withdrawing from family and friends in favor of the screen.
5. Suffer from backache, carpal tunnel syndrome, stiff neck, nerve pain, eye strain, “texting thumb.”
6. Persistent inability to cut down.
7. Ever-increasing amounts of time spent in front of the screen
8. Prefer the screen over family and friends.
9. Household tasks and responsibilities are left undone because of too much screen time
10. You are afraid that without your phone or Internet access, you might “miss something.”
If you exhibit a few of these, I recommend a techfast, for which I will provide detailed information in next week’s blog. Technology sends my life out of balance. A techfast helps remedy that situation.

NOTE: This blog post started because I was pissed at myself for being in a funk. I simply decided to be honest about my internal process, and I also let the anger power me through. After having written this, I am 90% out of the funk, but beset with a strong urge to go back now and check email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I can do that if I set a timer. Five minutes, no more!

The ADHD brain is supremely tuned to respond well to novelty and excitement, but is an exceedingly poor performer when things get routine, predictable, and yes, boring. Our lives are like the movie, Ground Hog Day, and many of us have similarities to the character played by Bill Murray. When the same stimuli come at us day after day, we actually can persist in extraordinary ways, but only when we have something extraordinary, like Andy McDowell in the movie, to motivate us. I have had two books published and let me tell you, ADHD and finishing anything, let alone a full-length book, do not go well together. The only way I finish things is, first of all, to complain to lots of my friends about how horrible it is that I cannot finish anything. They yell at me and this helps temporarily keep me on track. Then I get embarrassed and ashamed the next time I fall into a funk, and often choose to suffer in silence, rather than get yelled at again. The cycle repeats. But I also have a big bag of tricks that, while they do not always work, sometimes have the power to pull me out of the apathetic funk I struggle with each and every day.

Trick #1: Back Away from the Computer.
This one is simple; even though I am in funkland, there is a voice inside of me that says, “You can get out of this.” The first step is to listen to that voice and leave the computer. The cyber world to an addiction-prone ADHDer like me is a sweet candy that when I overindulge puts me in a cyber-coma. When I am sitting in front of the screen, I can cyber-meld; my anxiety and frustration temporarily vanish. But I get nothing done, and end up feeling like crap later on. GET AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. NOW!

Trick #2: Move!
When I hear that voice, it’s time to move. I have to get up immediately and just interrupt the pattern. Here are a few activities I might do at that time: drive to Tim Horton’s and get a coffee; take a 20-minute, fast-paced walk, the whole time brainstorming ideas and taking notes on my phone (My brain seems to work better in motion); go to the food court at the local mall with a notebook and write down whatever comes to mind; drive to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Diego Rivera is an old reliable source of funk busting for me). JUST BREAK THE PATTERN AND MOVE.

Trick #3: Phone a Friend.
I am often at my worst when I am isolated and alone, yet for some reason, I resist reaching out. I am going to take this opportunity to admit that the old AT&T jingle, “Reach out, reach out and touch someone,” used to make me cry. I think I had such a strong emotional reaction because I have a hard time reaching out. I still struggle with this, but when I get over whatever it is that happens to be holding me back, calling a friend works because I often get my greatest creative developments when I am sharing my ideas with someone else (don’t share your ideas with people who bring you down, which is what I used to do). If you want to succeed with ADHD, you need support, and plenty of it. SUPPORT. SUPPORT. SUPPORT.

Trick #4: Use Your Anger.
People ask me how I, a highly distractible adult with serious problems of persistence, managed to complete two books and get them published. The answer is simple: anger. ADHD people, we have anger and frustration in overabundance. Those emotional experiences, however, represent energy. We have to learn to use that energy to our advantage. While I am willing to admit my shortcomings, I have become a master of channeling negative emotional states. My good friend, Doug, who I grew up with, said, “When you do dishes, clean your house, or any mundane job, it is as if the task is an enemy, someone you hate and who you can vanquish if you just put all of your energy into it.” Negative emotional states are opportunities. CHANNEL YOUR EMOTIONS TO GET THINGS DONE!

Trick #5: Stay on Target.
As I sit here now, trying to finish this blog post, here are some of the voices in my head:
• You’re almost done, why don’t you just play a video game and then you can come back to it.
• Five tricks might be too many for one blog post, maybe you should cut it to four.
• This is a great start, and you never finish anything the first run through. TAKE A BREAK.
• I wish I was in London right now.
• I hate cold coffee.

This is what happens to me. I call it “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” I have that saying posted on the wall and am looking at it right now. I have it there to remind me that this is what I have done time and again in my life. When I look at that saying, I am reminded of all the great ideas that I did not bring to fruition, which then irritates me. Right now, I am channeling that irritation back into this writing. STAY ON TARGET!

In the coming weeks, I will be elaborating on each of these points. My intention is that I will support you in your own productivity by honestly sharing the pitfalls in my own life. I am not a guru; I am a fellow traveler who likes to compare notes with others!

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