If this disorder ever gains medical recognition, remember that you saw it here first. For the record, I actually named it about 3 years ago in the midst of a major project at work that was very complex. I’ve even mentioned it in a doctor’s appointment and he seemed to think that I was talking about an actual medically determined disorder.
Anyway, adult onset situational ADD (attention deficit disorder) is my term for the extreme difficulties we can experience when we are constantly distracted from being able to really get into the meat of something. The phones trill at us, the emails ping in one after another, people come by with questions or needs, meetings are scheduled one after another – the list goes on. And this is just the work version; there is an identical one at home for many people.
Most people have tasks that should be considered uninterruptable for the purpose of completing them fully and correctly the first time. This could be something like putting together a spreadsheet of data from various sources and then adding formulas to help to analyze the information included. The task requires contemplation and comprehension as well as the formulation of a theory or overall strategy. In other words, it requires some deep thought, best done in mental space free from noise and distraction. The polar opposite of multi-tasking.
Multi-tasking has become so universally revered that we have forgotten the benefit and importance of immersion in one task. There is a time and a place for everything, multi-tasking has its moments when we are doing simple, repetitive tasks, and focus on single tasking has its place as well for complex, detailed tasks.
I recently caved to the suggestion that I join the Twitterverse. Talk about visual adult onset situational ADD – there it is in living color. Life now presented in 140 characters or less, no space for nuance or detail. We’ve been getting our news in sound bite snippets for years as less and less of the populous reads the newspaper. We added in smart phones so that now no one ever has to be alone with their own thoughts, or actually interact with the people around them, even if they are friends at the same table.
I’ve started to see articles (yes, I read the paper, and gasp – do not have a smart phone) that are questioning what we are doing to our brains with all these short bursts of stimuli. I’ve named the answer – adult onset situational ADD. Ask your boss if you can put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and ignore email to complete those uninterruptable tasks. Find a quiet spot and read something in depth. Go for a walk with a friend and leave the smart phones behind. Spend some time on a regular basis single tasking on something more complex and get away from adult onset situational ADD.
But come and find me on Twitter. I already have 2 followers, though I’m not sure why.
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