Floating Focus - Mimi's Experience
For Mimi, staying focused and filtering out distractions can be a struggle. Her mind starts to drift away unconsciously, derailing her train of thought.
She said: “I sort of go into a daydream world and it can be so easy and so quick…And sometimes I don’t even realise it’s happened.”
The change in topic can be completely random and out of her control. Different factors in the environment can take away her focus, and this can escalate until she’s immersed in a wholly new and often irrelevant subject.
She continued: “I could be in a meeting and I can see, oh, there’s a stain on that curtain...I wonder how that got there? And all of a sudden I’m thinking about how people made curtains in the 1800s.”
These difficulties with sustaining attention can cause issues in both a professional and social capacity, where concentration is essential in work tasks and activities.
It can be a significant challenge to stay invested in a conversation when your brain begins to overthink and dart around to other information in the environment. Despite her best efforts, it’s usually beyond her control.
When you’re constantly zoning in and out of tasks, day-to-day living can become frustrating. To manage this, Mimi breaks things down into smaller chunks and tries to make them more fun to help keep her brain engaged.
“So if I’m having conversations with someone, my brain is also going, am I smiling? Am I doing this? Am I doing that? Why did I just say that? Should I have said this?”
Unfortunately, her floating focus has been misunderstood by others in the past.
At a previous job in a bar, she would find herself forgetting orders and getting distracted by all of the different stimuli. People kept questioning her and asking why she wasn’t listening, which didn’t help.
She said: “It makes me feel like, oh my gosh, I have done something wrong…Oh no, what have I done wrong? And then you’re still not listening and you’re still not engaged.”
Instead of making assumptions, it’s important to recognise that everyone has their own struggles and a little bit of empathy can go a long way. By understanding individual differences, adjustments can be put in place to support them.
“This is something I can’t help, but I can manage. It can be quite hard to grow up with a floating focus…I am taking in this information, but I’m also looking at what’s going on over there. Just be patient with us.”
Sometimes, all it takes is an exercise of patience – offer them some extra time so they can process what’s going on, and see the difference it makes.