Saturday, September 6, 2008

Time for the important stuff...

My all-time least favorite work assignment hung over my head like a dark cloud for 2 weeks. It involves cross-referencing and organizing papers. Many many papers. Which is also known as the Nightmare on ADD Street. Usually, it's a task that I could handle intermittently while I completed other work. But in this case, I had a little over a week to finish it, and thinking about the task at hand made me want to down a bottle of Tums.

I began the hell assignment on a Tuesday, and I got a small bit of it done. At the end of the day, I promised myself that Wednesday would be the day that I would knock off a big chunk of it. But Wednesday came and went, and I yet again finished just a small part of it.

I left work on Wednesday feeling rather defeated. The thought of the work I had to do hung over my head like a dark cloud encircled with buzzards. I knew I needed to figure out a better way of getting the work accomplished. As I mulled over options for a "better way," the most novel idea struck me. One really effective way to finish the project would be to -- get this -- actually work on it.

I knew I hadn't been slacking off at work. However, I knew that I had been quick to respond to every email that landed in my inbox over the past couple of days. I also knew that I'd agreed to give a hand to a few others who needed assistance with some random, minor assignments that they had. In other words, I'd put everything else in front of the #1 priority that I needed to complete.

And so, I decided on Thursday to perform some self-recon on the amount of time that I spent on the tormenting assignment. Using the Journal feature of Microsoft Outlook as my timer, I started when I worked on the assignment, and stopped it when I worked on anything else. When lunchtime rolled around, a good 3+ hours after I arrived at the office, I checked the amount of time I'd spent on my "priority" assignment.

36 minutes.

I had spent the rest of my time on work of lesser priority, helping some coworkers, and yes, going for coffee. I maybe spent just 15 minutes on the coffee run. But still, 15 minutes was almost half the time that I spent on what I had deemed to be my #1 priority. Or had I actually deemed it to be my priority?

I think that, for ADDers, time slips through our fingers in a unique way. If we decide that something's important, then that's where our goes. And that's good, because we get to focus our energies on exactly what we want to do. However, that's also bad because there are some things that we must do, like taxes or hell assignments or buying groceries, whether or not they truly interest us. Certainly, you can get H&R Block to do your taxes or even have your groceries delivered. But you still have to decide to toss your receipts into a shoe box and hop in the car, or log onto the grocery delivery Web site.

When I went out at lunch on that Thursday, I thought about the face that having the assignment done would be like lifting a huge anvil off from my chest. I wouldn't walk around all dramatic, as if all the world's problems were mine to solve. And thinking about that feeling of, well, being free from the madness definitely provided me with motivation.

I returned from lunch optimistic that completing the assignment was within my reach. I continued to use the timer to keep myself accountable. Doing so definitely helped, because every time I paused it, it made me think for a minute whether my reason for pausing time merited my diversion from my assignment.

Indeed, at the 11th hour, I completed the assignment. Today, I started a new assignment that I enjoy so much that I didn't even consider using the timer. And because of this experience, I keep thinking about what I believe to be important and how much time I spend on it. Wow. Talk about having something to ponder...