Friday, February 17, 2012

Hyperfocus and balance

For as long as I can remember I've worked in short hyperfocused bursts, regardless of what I was learning or doing. For example, a few weeks ago I spent 8 hours all night learning everything I could about sugars and how they're digested, absorbed, and metabolized by our bodies. Fascinating stuff.

Last year around this time I learned my health, turning 32, was in very poor shape - hypertension, difficulty losing weight, trouble remembering to eat and when I did I didn't pay much attention to how much or how it would affect me. At that point I was on a low-carb diet which had plateaued but was the only thing that kept me from ballooning back to 36%+ body fat. This worked for me because it didn't require much attention, I could continue doing whatever I wanted as long as I followed a few simple rules, except that it didn't work. The root of the problem wasn't diet or lack of exercise (I walk/bike everywhere), but that when not eating or exercising I was sitting for hours (10+) at a time and would often go for days glued in front of a computer screen.

Rugby was at first a reason to get off my ass more often, after I played a few games it became an obsession (Red #23). Thinking back I can't remember when I switched from playing rugby to get in shape, to getting in shape to play rugby, but after spending 5 days a week all Winter training my ass off to be ready for Bingham Cup 2012 I'm well past that tipping point. Rugby isn't a career, especially at my age it'll never become one, though it has strongly altered my lifestyle and choices.

Training has become a much-needed metronome for my life. I wake up with the sun now, every day I have something on my schedule (including days for rest/recovery), every meal is timed and planned, my time in front of a computer fits into that schedule.

My best work is done after 3-4 days of concentration, when the hyperfocus reaches a point where the only thing I'm aware of is the code I'm working on. I have a few hours to be absolutely brilliant in that state until my neurotransmitters, dopamine, cortisol, and countless other support systems give out - but in those few hours I'd have completed weeks of work. This presents a problem that I'm looking to overcome; how can I reach that state within the small slices of time available while keeping the nasty recovery effects to a minimum?

I'm working to solve that now with biofeedback in much the same way as I learned to control my sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, weight management, and sleep cycle. I believe that if I'm successful I can work much more efficiently without any noticeable recovery time between sessions.

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