First look at this video...
We can have a laugh at this poor lady's bad moment (and frankly, I did -- don't judge me).
But it is funny because we see this all the time in different forms. How many times have you seen a team crank up the size of its sprint "commitment" because they didn't make the last one?
How many times have you seen people struggle with a practice by doing it "wrong" over and over until they simply got sick of trying and quit?
When we're focused on something else (getting the release out, dealing with a bad review, feeling bad about a skill we need but don't have) we can easily get into this kind of a mess.
Here you know that she knew intuitively that her problem was that the gas cap was on the other side, but she somehow got it into her head that it was the wrong side of the post and not the car. She kept pulling up to one side and then the other, sure that she got on the right side of the post this time.
It was not the post that needed re-orienting, it was the car. It was easier and simpler to reorient when she knew what she needed to do, but that was only after she finally took responsibility for understanding and thinking through the problem -- which almost certainly meant letting go of something else she was mentally preoccupied with.
Are we driving in an attentional fog, too focused on what we're not doing to be able to accomplish what we really need?
Confession: Yeah, I've had the same kind of attention tunnel vision, and I've had days that were consumed in things that weren't work. I've spent many hours trying to work but trying to not put my full attention on it.
We can do better.
Here's what I'm learning:
- Intend to have accomplishments, or at least one, soon.
Try the pomodoro technique perhaps so you're focusing in smaller bursts.
- Catch it sooner. Don't spend the whole day in attentional fog.
- Recognize "overwhelm" and take a walk or a break rather than trying to push through.
- Consider taking time out and dealing with the distractions so you can have your whole brain back instead of dealing with the Ziergarnik effect.
- Use someone else's attention. Their focus will help support your focus.
I've not mastered this yet, but all of these things seem to be helping when I'm aware enough to "catch it sooner" and use one of these techniques.