I have pretty good powers of concentration. I can shut things out and get things done. But usually when I work I move in and out of concentration. I can concentrate for a few minutes, relax for a few minutes, and then move right back to concentrating. That’s how I work. It’s not that I’m hard to distract it’s that distraction is part of concentrating for me. As long as it’s the right kind of distraction. Some sort of entertaining distraction.

Of course, my usual distraction is just like everyone else’s. TV, music, or the radio. I like non-interuptive stuff that doesn’t demand I look at it. I listen to the Howard Stern Show, I like music I can sing along with (or ambient music if I find words too distracting), plus I’ll put on some TV shows. Shows I’ve already seen preferably so that I don’t have to pay attention to every little detail. I also like documentaries because the good ones tell a story that I can follow even without looking too much at the TV.

Those are all distractions but they’re the good kind of distraction. I’m in control of them and can pick and choose among them as to which I’d like to hear. Sometimes I’ll put on the TV and it will be irritating so I’ll switch over to some music. They’re all good distractions as compared to a screeching bird. Last summer a couple of hawks of some kind took up residence in some trees along my street. They screeched and screeched all afternoon long to each other. That was an annoying distraction. It was neat for a little while but after a few hours it was enough. They eventually moved on though.

This week I had to put up with a bad distraction. Workers were over working on my home while I was trying to work. Nothing new there. Everyone finds construction at the home/workplace (mine are one and the same) to be a hassle and a distraction. There are people stomping through the place all day and making noise. They might be keeping as small a footprint as possible but they’ll still be a bother. That’s just life.

This week I found the hardest part of workmen being in the house was not concentrating but being able to move in and out of concentration. I actually got a lot done. I worked on a painting and some art cards. It was the painting that was a lot of work. And it was hard. Not hard because it was different than my other paintings but hard because I couldn’t stop concentrating.

When I was working on the painting it was all “Go-go-go”. I was concentrating a lot without moving in and out of concentration. I found it hard to take a break because I couldn’t relax with all the bad distractions going on around me. I had to keep pushing myself to keep going because stopping would just mean irritation. That lead to a real tiring state of affairs.

After the first day of painting I was pretty happy with myself. I got a lot done and the painting was coming along nicely. Then I realized I was having a hard time stopping concentrating. It wasn’t easy returning to the real world. My parents were up and over for diner but I was having a hard time focusing on eating. I was still off in another world that was inside of my head. That was a weird felling. It took me a couple of hours to get back to normal. And I was tired. Brain fatigued tired.

At the start of the second day I was still optimistic but wanted to adjust my concentration a little. I wanted to take more breaks and see if I could relax a little more. I finished the painting that day and it ended up that I did manage to relax a bit more. I didn’t have to come down as far after my day was done. Though it was still real tiring though and it took a lot of will to keep going. That and the knowledge that just sitting there and being irritated was worse. Thankfully the painting came out well. A lot of work went into it.

By the time the third day rolled around I knew I didn’t have the strength anymore for the same concentration I had had the two days prior. I was glad my painting was done. It was easy enough to work on my comic strips that morning because the workmen came late in the morning so I had some peace and quite for a while. After that I decided to work on a photo. It was a little challenging to get my brain to focus but working on a photo on the computer takes me less concentration than a painting. That might be because mistakes are way easier to fix on the computer. I have to think things through visually when I’m painting before I put paint down. On the computer all I have to do is hit “Undo” and the mistakes are gone. Too bad life is not like that.

On the morning of the fourth and final day of the workmen doing their work I was really burned out. They weren’t even there yet and I was irritated. I worked on coloring (with markers) some of my cartoon art cards that get turned into my “Drifting and Dreaming” comic strip. That’s a fairly low concentration task but I could barely do it. I went for a bike ride at 9 AM and hoped that would give me some energy. That worked and I was able to get back to work with a little more zip to my step.

The guys finished up around noon that fourth day and boy was I glad. They did a good job but I was tired and frazzled. That was not their fault, of course, it was just life. I am happy I got all the things done that I wanted to do but that type of concentration takes a lot out of me.

I’ve seen people with that total type of concentration where they go at something for hours and hours. I think it’s actually more common than my type of moving in and out of focus concentration. I’ve also seen people with that type of concentration not want to get started. They procrastinate. I’m not sure if the two things are related but I can see how they might be. That prolonged concentration takes a lot out of you. It hurts. I much prefer my usual method.

Normally I don’t suffer the type of burnout that I had this week. Moving in and out of concentration makes me be able to concentrate for a long time with less effort. After all I don’t have to concentrate on concentrating. I’m not sure why I’m good at that but I learned the value of distracting myself a long time ago and incorporated it into my work habits. It’s served me well. That is as long as nothing else comes along to distract me from being able to distract myself.