Pregnant malfunctioning: I’ve set a timer for this one.

I’ve set a timer to write this post. Actually, since I’m writing on my husband’s computer, I just installed a google app to time me for twenty minutes. Setting a timer is one of those magic tricks to keep us on task. As I’ve explained in earlier posts, off my meds, pregnant, my brain is working differently- and it’s not entirely predictable how it works. This past week or so, I’ve experienced something I only remember from years and years ago: it’s a particular brand of not getting engaged in anything at all. Here’s how it works: there are any number of projects and just maintenance stuff, in the personal as well as business realm, that normally I could dump myself into when I’m tired or spacey. Completing them gives me increased focus, and a sense of accomplishment. For me those things can include:

  • doing some laundry
  • cleaning one room
  • going through a stack of mail/bills
  • answering some e-mails

I think the key is that these things are tangible, even if "circular" (ie things that are never completed, because they just need to keep happening), and once I start, my brain doesn’t have to do much to keep going, kind of like playing solitaire.

Why isn’t it working right now? I know that on a neurobiological level, something is going on that’s different, but I don’t know exactly what. I do know that I’m experiencing this:
I have a lot of projects I want to do, and tasks to complete. None of them are reaching out and grabbing me. None of them feel easier to do than others (because I’m physically, well, pregnant). None of them is appealing to my sense of gratification- or sense of possibility. Here’s another trick that often helps me to pick something to do:

  • What will have a good impact, in terms of functioning now, or how I feel by getting it done?

In other words, what’s something I can do that would be a matter of being nice to me- like tidying up, which gives me a clearer mind and a more pleasant foundation to work from. Or, like a project that would feel great to have done, or to finally have off the list. In order to answer that question, first I must ask myself:

  • How am I doing right now? How much energy do I have, mentally and physically?

And then I can use that to help inform my choices.

But hey, I said none of that was really working right now. So I’ve set a timer to do something I really do like, something I was ready to do, but still had trouble engaging in. I set the attention stage. Today’s elements include:

  • Turning on all the lights in my office. This helps me feel awake.
  • Playing some music on my computer.
  • Wearing comfortable clothing.
  • Making the temperature in my office reasonable (failed today folks, because of the nasty humidity here, but I did my best)
  • Making sure I’ve gone to the bathroom, eaten and had something to drink.
  • Not trying to do everything I wanted to do first, in this case, I gave up on taking a walk first, because that would be one thing too many.
  • Setting a countdown timer for 20 minutes. This is a period that feels doable, and I may be so into it when the timer goes off that I keep going. But remember: if nothing gets done in that time, the agreement was only to do my best during that time.

The elements for you depend on what helps. Listen to yourself to see when you’re just putting it off, and setting the timer and saying "go" will do more for you than anything else, or if there’s something you need to take care of. A bunch of timed activities might work great- like 20 minutes at your desk, then 10 minutes of cleaning (the desk if you’re at the office, anything if you’re at home.), or a half-hour workout or walk. Or you might get right on into your work with the help of the magic timer. I say magic, because it’s weird that it helps so much. It’s the homunculus that keeps track of focus for you right then, and you can just go. I guess it worked for me today!