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I have been contemplating the human need to be useful, with three examples.

1) Even my toddler likes to help clean up spills, put rubbish in the bin, and wipe her own nose. She’s not even two – she could be ‘reading’ or playing with her building blocks but no, she chooses to come and help me pick up the rice she dropped on the floor.

2) A man with learning difficulties now works at a local cafe. He’s a bit slow to take your order but he’s lovely and he gets it right. He clearly takes pride in his work and I’m always pleased to see him doing well.

3) I once had a job where they ran out of work for me to do. I was the only person who seemed to think this wasn’t OK and, after a few weeks of being told to “read the intranet” and solving sudoku puzzles, I moved on. The work hadn’t been very interesting but I missed it when it was gone and I had to sit staring at my screen all day!

I recently heard that the UK is one of the least productive countries in Europe. It’s ridiculous. Humans clearly want to be helpful and useful and to actually DO stuff. Are we badly organised? Inefficient?

With so many people packed inside our borders, and many more keen to come here, it feels like we should be the most productive, per square metre!

Doesn’t everyone get a chance to be productive?

Perhaps we are all waiting for the right chance, like the man at the cafe. In which case, do we need to change our attitude, or the organisation of the whole country? 

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It seems ironic that my last update was about coping with distractions and, here I am weeks later, finally adding a new post after several large distractions.

It’s amazing how holidays and weddings get in the way of blog writing – especially when there’s work to keep up with too. This morning was my first day back at work after a weekend in Kent for a wedding. That was the last major event for a couple of weeks so things should get back to normal. But not yet.

Active/inactive

Today seems to have been a non-starter. I’ve got bits and pieces done but no serious ‘work’. I’m out of the office again on Wednesday for one of my regular distractions, tomorrow I have to do something else that’s not normally in my remit, and then I’ve got phonecalls to make (which I hate doing) and then more events towards the end of the month. It’s hardly surprising I feel so unsettled.

What I actually want to do is ignore all my commitments and go for a lie down with some comfy pyjamas on. Or bake cinnamon buns. Or possibly read a book.

Routine = productivity

All this reminds me how important it is for Aspies to have a proper routine. It makes life so much easier. The fewer breaks and changes there are, the easier it is for us to cope and do well.

As it is, my schedule for the week has convinced me I won’t get anything of value done before Thursday, when all of my big distractions for the week are behind me.

This is unproductive and annoying but it’s all I can cope with right now. I have cancelled my outing this evening to spend quality time with my sofa.

Is there a way for Aspies to do more or are we just stuck like this?

 

I suppose I should specify that I mean coping with distractions when doing work. If I’m reading a novel, or daydreaming, then it’s very easy for me to ignore any background noises. People can be talking to me for minutes before I realise and then I have to ask them to repeat everything they said. When I’m working, it’s a very different matter. The more I need to concentrate, the harder it seems to ignore the myriad distractions around me.

In the past it’s been a situation I’ve just had to deal with. I couldn’t magic myself out of the open plan office into something quieter. But even now that I have the opportunity to move to a quieter office, I don’t always take it. I feel I should be able to cope with the shared office because that’s what everybody else does, without a problem.

My other half is a perfect example. He can do some really clever work while watching a film. He can jump from meeting, to phone call, to desk work, without losing the plot or showing any outward signs of a nervous breakdown. So it bothers me that I find myself so easily distracted. Sometimes the quantity of my output suffers. And in the worst cases, the quality suffers too.

What am I struggling with?

As far as I can tell the main type of distraction is auditory, with some visual difficulties too.

  • In my office there is often music being played, I like music and often the choice is good but there are times when the tracks become repetitive and start to annoy me. Also, sometimes I really would prefer silence to help me concentrate.
  • When I’m at my usual desk I’m also expected to answer the phone and pass on messages or transfer calls. Some days this doesn’t happen much but it can happen a lot, sometimes in the middle of something important.
  • Often there is a degree of conversation happening in the same room. People even have meetings at their desk occasionally. This means I have to listen to their voices and sometimes I get interested in what’s going on. Sometimes I just wish they’d shut up so I could focus on my own tasks.

These three sources of noise often coincide. Even if I put my own music on and listen through headphones, I still hear the background noise and I still have distracting music to contend with. I also then have to pull the headphones off every time I see the phone ringing.

Compared to the open plan spaces I used to work in, this office is actually pretty good but it’s still not quiet enough for me to get in the zone when I need to.

  • Visual interference comes in the form of sunlight which bounces off a wall outside my window and sometimes makes it hard for me to see the screen. This isn’t usually an issue but it can be really annoying when it does happen.
  • Other interference is caused by using the track changes function when I’m editing. Somehow the addition of all that red makes it harder for me to continue spotting errors. I have to remember to switch the view to ‘final’ instead of ‘final showing markup’. At least this interference is easy to fix – I just have to remember to do it!
  • The final source of interference really shouldn’t be that at all. It’s the other jobs on my ‘to do’ list. If I have several items that need urgent attention, or all have the same deadlines, then I worry about finishing them all on time.
  • If I see new things coming into my inbox this makes it even worse. That means I have new jobs which I haven’t yet prioritised, and I don’t know how complex or time-consuming they may be.

I think I will try to switch off the auto-notification for emails so I don’t have that additional worry.

What distractions do you have to deal with and how do you cope?