Imagine that you’re watching a really good movie or maybe you’re engrossed in a really good novel. Maybe all your attention is on your significant other or maybe you’re engaged in a task the requires all of your attention like fixing something or assembling it. Maybe you’re at work and you would hope that should anyone decide to call you between the hours of 9-5 that it’s going to be something worth putting aside a task for. You’re so far into whatever zone or moment you’re in that any distraction such as a phone call or someone who completely disregards the fact that you’re completely occupied is enough for you to get extremely frustrated because either the said distraction has now taken you out of the zone of mental focus you so desperately required to complete your task efficiently or instead of progressing the said movie or book or even video game you’ve been putting so much energy into you’re now completely thrown out of what ever zone of immersion that made the experience enjoyable. Maybe it was a phone call, maybe someone came storming into whatever room you were in and become enough of a distraction to completely kill what ever moment you were in and in those moments a part of you knows damn well that if what ever someone blatantly killed your focus for isn’t urgent, important, relevant, or time sensitive enough to warrant taking you out of your zone, you’re all of a sudden a hair a away from giving them the dirtiest look you’ve ever given anyone in years and maybe even getting annoyed if this be comes too much of a common re-occurrence. Amplify this focus feeling of annoyance when the said focus is broken and you have my complex and sometimes whacked out mind.
This phenomenon is known as Hyperfoucs is quite common for those on the spectrum as well as people with the AD(H)D spectrum of disorders. Hyperfoucs is the ability (if well controlled) and the tendency to use copious amounts of mental energy to focus on one thing and one thing only. Some people have issues with controlling this and at any moment can be fixated on a singular task, activity, or concept and if you ever plan on breaking such intense focus without a steady transition then you might as well be getting a can of gasoline and dousing the whole thing over an open electrical or grease fire. It won’t end well for anyone and shit will hit the fan faster than you can blink and probably even faster than your hear rate when a nasty tantrum starts. There is however another type of Hyperfocus that not many individuals posses, it is a controlled focus where one has the ability to expend all their mental energy towards a singular task, redirecting that energy however requires just as much energy as a car would require to start up again after being at rest, maybe even more. I have the latter which makes me somewhat prone to getting a bit agitated when my focus is broken. I won’t show it but unless the reason for my focus getting broken is a good one I don’t usually take it all that well. Now it should be noted that this isn’t an issue for me when I work as job or internship as diversions from your task come with the territory. It is understandable and expected that your superiors may need to assign you to another task that’s a bit more sensitive whatever task you were doing previously. I welcome such distractions as they breakup the monotony of a work day. Outside of this however I don’t always take it with smiles and giggles.
The reason why unnecessary distractions agitate me is because I already have issues holding my attention on something that isn’t a life or death thing (Anything like driving or any task in which not focusing could cause harm to me or someone else is what I consider a life or death task and I’m as hyperfocused as I can get when it comes to driving, I can hold conversations with people already in a car while driving but don’t be surprised if I don’t ever take phone calls while driving unless I have a hands free device, I like having both of my hands available). Anything not life or death tends to be tougher as I have a rather short attention span. In order for me to really focus on a task I have to an intense amount of energy and if the task is extremely enticing then I expend even more energy. Watching movies, playing video games, listening to music, doing computer maintenance/assembly, house painting, and reading a decent book are some of the many tasks that are enjoyable enough to require a substantial amount of mental energy.
Video games are a big one as a lot of time needs to be devoted to completing a game and the world of the game draws me in efficiently enough that it takes my attention from everything else. Due to my short attention span I try to complete games as quickly as possible or else I either procrastinate on them later and put them off. This requires me to play video games in several bursts that usually consist of 3-10 hour binges. I have mentioned in the past that my mind sometimes likes to work as if time is against it and that makes these binges that much heavier. If I have nothing else to do that day and know that I may not have the time later I tend to compete play a through as much of a game as humanly possible in one day. A perfect example, a new game that I had been waiting a while for came out and I bought it during the work week. I didn’t have enough mental energy to play much of the game during the work week so when my weekend started I went into binge mode but coincidentally I received a ton of phone calls from my parents asking me to run errands and had my parents constantly calling me from my room to help them out. Having my mental focus broken a lot in one day was really annoying, especially when the game was getting really enticing. To my mind it was like the universe was working against me to prevent me from finishing the game at the pace I wanted to. Now it should be noted that I am only able to hyperfocus on video games when I don’t have anything else to do that is more important.
This hyperfocus comes quite in handy when I’m doing homework or school projects or even studying for exams. It’s great being able to focus intently on school work and get large amounts of it at a speedy pace. It however becomes an issue when I become so engrossed in my work that I completely ignore hunger and sometimes fatigue. I’ve been in situations where I got so wrapped up in a final project or essay that I missed dinner hours at college and had to order takeout which was not good diet wise. I have learned to make mental time milestones where I know I’ll have to break my focus in order to take care of my health and cutoff times so that I can give myself a break and actually get adequate sleep. While doing temp work as a house painter, hyperfocus was the best thing to happen to me as I could finish multiple rooms in the span of a few days and could do an entire industrial sized hallway at a really fast pace. All I needed was music and I was in a zone where I could burn through tasks quickly. Minutes turned in to hours and time seemed limitless. I’m what your would call your ideal employer and to be able to easily move to other tasks knowing it was expected of me, the ability to focus does me wonders. Also I should note that once I have family I couldn’t care less is they broke my focus, that also comes with the territory and it will always be about them.
Learning to anticipate my focus getting broken is something I still struggle with a bit outside of work. My mind is all about completing tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible. I got three phone calls while trying to complete this blog post that really threw off my focus. I got phone call at my internship which also threw off my focus and messed with my flow. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever call me, I’m simply saying that some of us like to stay in the zone for however long it takes us to get a task done pending there isn’t anything more urgent or time sensitive than the task at hand. It doesn’t mean we don’t think you’re important, it’s just that getting thrown out of our zone sucks, especially when what’s keeping your in that zone is beneficial or even therapeutic. I promise you I’m not some self centered pompous prick, it’s just how my mind operates and a lot of other people go through the same thing. If you need our attention by all means get our attention but at least do it in regards to the fact that we’re in the zone. If it isn’t urgent or time sensitive then at least wait for us to finish that movie, or that task, if it’s a video game and you know we may not leave it for a while and your request is time sensitive then be kind and knock or be sensitive with how you jolt us out of our zone because for some of us, going back into that zone can be difficult. I hope you enjoyed another journey into my mind. Stay classy people.