We have a finicky toaster oven. The done-ness indicators on the dial are basically meaningless. I have a suspicion it’s collecting data on our use and reactions for a psychological experiment.
So when I put a bagel in the other morning, I knew I had to keep an eye on it. It’s also the moment Sprout decided she needed a refill on her Rice Krispies. And more banana.
And we had the radio on, which I was semi-paying attention to, since they were doing a news update.
Then Button decided to drop his teething chew thingamajig. This displeased him.
With these competing demands and draws for my attention, it would be very easy to forget the need to watch my bagel. The more I paid attention to these other inputs, the more likely it was that I’d be spreading cream cheese on a charcoal-tinged disc.
I won’t belabor the metaphor: This is all about avoiding burnout.
The repeated mantra somebody sent me that I’m keeping close to heart right now is “You’re not working from home. You’re at home trying to work.”
My job teaching at a university is not one designed to be done from the corner of my house over a webcam. Even if it was, the added complications of schools being closed, needing to be socially distant from our primary child care providers (aka, Sprout & Button’s grandparents), and losing just about every pressure release valve getting out of the house can provide… It can be easy to take your eye off the bagel.
Honestly, it got to the point where I wasn’t even sure where the bagel was, or what the bagel was.
But in this case, the bagel is what sustains you. It keeps you going. It gives you energy and pleasure and a reason to get up in the morning.
And right now, that bagel is jammed in an unpredictable toaster oven of a world. There’s no telling from moment-to-moment what the day or the week will try to do to that bagel.
You’ll miss the signs that something is going wrong if you get distracted.
And right now, it is very easy to get distracted.
Maybe it can help to use a timer, like the one on the toaster oven. To tell yourself that for X amount of minutes, this next thing is your bagel, and it’s going to have your complete attention. It’s one step I’m trying.
For me, it feels like my focus is an important tool to sharpen right now. Maybe you feel it, too.