Wednesday, August 30, 2006

AD/HD Distractions: 3 Steps to Healthy Diversions

(cc) Douglas CooteyAs summer draws to a close I offer my final distraction for you: A cage filled with four fat groundhog-gopher things. It features fully interactive camera motion, including auto panning, and one groundhog that is constantly trying to tunnel under the wheel. Worth a laugh or two, then get back to work. Of course, the webcam is in Japan so you'll have to take time differentials into consideration.

I've tried to keep three things in mind when choosing distractions. As I've stated before, you're going to get distracted anyway, so you might as well make them good ones. That is why I felt comfortable sharing them with you, especially my AD/HD proned readers.

1) Is it constructive and mentally stimulating?

Face it. There are plenty of things to do that don't require an ounce of thought. Years ago when I was Lord of the Pants I couldn't stand eating in the break room. The TV was always on and I could guarantee that it was always tuned in to something inane and I would sit there and watch it. Soon I found quieter places to frequent that allowed me to write or draw or read. Just the break I needed to boost my brain before undertaking another pants folding marathon. Now that I work in my home, I am careful about my breaks. I still avoid the boob tube and instead find something invigorating like Sudoku, MahJong, or Geocamming to recharge my batteries before getting back to work.

2) Is it time consuming?

I don't believe that logging into World of Warcraft can count as a quick break. I also don't believe there is such a thing as a short game of Civilization as much as I love that game. You wouldn't go out for an hour bike trip during a 15 minute lunch, would you? Well, and not expect to keep your job afterwards, anyway. For some reason, though, we don't factor time in properly when we do things online. There is something about the lack of physical exercise that skews our perception.

Stay away from addicting pastimes that make you feel like Rip Van Winkle when you come out of your reverie. Know yourself and don't tempt fate.

3) Does the distraction have a built in ending?

This is the most crucial element that makes or breaks a distraction for me. Some activities are simply shorter than others, like taking a walk around the block versus walking to the bank, but taking a walk through the market or mall might mean your loved ones would have to send out the search and rescue teams to bring you home. Likewise, an easy game of Sudoku might take minutes; a complex game might take an hour. Despite the fact that I love to tackle the complex Sudoku grids I avoid them and stick to the easy ones. I make speed part of the challenge of playing and it satisfies. But some people have commented that Sudoku is addicting to them. They can't stop so they avoid the game altogether. You'll have to test the distraction out before adding it to your list of approved diversions. I've found that I can make some activities have an artificial ending, as in the case of Sudoku, but others, like reading news feeds, cannot be tamed for love nor money.

I came up with this system when I lost too many hours digesting the Drudge Report and Slashdot. I knew that I couldn't just read a little bit of news. I was a junkie. I used to lose hours. But I needed a break that invigorated my mind, sparked me with new info, or let me spin in neutral a bit. I still enjoy my news fix, but I don't let myself read news as a break. I now have a list of other activities I know will give me the break I need without swallowing me.

I hope you enjoyed some of these diversions. If you use these steps to come up with your own lists be sure to send them to me. I'm always looking for something new to entertain my mind.

(I am collecting constructive distractions for this weekly feature. If you have some to suggest please leave them in the comments below. Registration is not necessary. You can even post anonymously.)