April 2006

Dr. Edward Hallowell

Taking control of life’s hectic pace
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<b>Taking control of life’s hectic pace</b> This article should have been finished sooner, but I had to reply to the 48 e-mail messages in my inbox, not to mention all those voice mail messages on my phone and the urgent letters that are piling up on my cluttered desk. I’m feeling frenzied, frazzled and forgetful a condition Dr. Edward Hallowell would identify as the dreaded F-state. A leading expert in the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Hallowell began to notice an interesting trend in his psychiatric practice almost a decade ago. Many people who felt overloaded and unorganized came to Hallowell to find out if they had ADD. Most did not, but were simply suffering from the frantic pace of modern life what Hallowell calls an environmentally induced stand-in for ADD. He christened the condition crazybusy and decided to write a book for the millions of us struggling to overcome it. In <b>CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD</b>, the doctor invents a new vocabulary to describe the busyness that threatens to overwhelm many harried multitaskers. There’s <i>taildogging</i> (going faster simply because everyone else is), <i>screensucking</i> (wasting time watching a screen on a computer, video game or television), <i>doomdart</i> (a forgotten task that suddenly pops into your consciousness) and our personal favorite, <i>EMV</i> (for e-mail voice): the unearthly tone a person’s voice takes on when he is reading e-mail while talking to you on the telephone. BookPage asked Hallowell for a few tips on how to survive when you’re stretched thin.

<b>How is constant busyness feeling frantic and unorganized, having too much to do different from true ADD?</b> Constant busyness being crazybusy is a condition we create. ADD is a condition a person is born with. The environment influences both, but a person has much more control over being crazybusy than over ADD. And the last thing a crazybusy person should do is take medication! The crazybusy person should take control, instead.

<b>Have you had a doomdart moment of your own lately?</b> As I was driving to the airport with my family for a trip, a doomdart hit me. I thought I had taken care of everything prior to leaving, but I realized that I had forgotten to leave a key to my house for a man who was going to do some work for us. Panic! Thank goodness I have a friend who has a key. <b>Isn’t being busy all the time a good thing? After all, most successful people seem to be busy.</b> That’s deceptive. Warren Buffet has no computer on his desk. He sits and thinks. Bill Gates takes weeks out of every year to go to a cabin in the woods so he can read and think, without interruptions. Successful people stop and think. They don’t just run around doing errands, talking on cell phones or downloading and sending emails.

<b>Would we all be better off if we gave up our cell phones and BlackBerrys?</b> No, not at all. BlackBerrys are great. The crucial point I make about technology is this: we need to be in charge of it, not let it be in charge of us. As long as you don’t power up your BlackBerry while, say, making love, then BlackBerrys will serve you well. But when the BlackBerry or any kind of technology becomes an addiction and starts to take priority where it shouldn’t, then you need to make some changes. Put yourself back in charge.

<b>What’s the first step someone should take to slow down a crazybusy life?</b> Realize that you have more control than you think. Most crazybusy people feel that they <i>have</i> to be that way. They feel that if they slow down, they will fall behind. But this is not true. If they focus on doing well what matters most instead of doing too much in a so-so fashion they will do better than ever.

<b>Help! My teenager is afflicted with screensucking and won’t do his homework. How can a parent counter the distraction of TV, computers and video games?</b> Screensucking is a huge, national epidemic, and not just among children. Adults do it, too. The solution? First, name the problem. Recognize it. Start to set limits on yourself and on your kids. Cultivate other activities, so you are not just getting rid of something but offering something better as well. Preserve the human moment face-to-face conversations, family dinner, doing fun stuff together so screensucking doesn’t become the default activity everyone resorts to the minute boredom hits.

<b>We had one more question to ask, but we’ve forgotten it. Is this early Alzheimer’s or an episode of fuhgeddomania (forgetfulness derived from data overload)?</b> Can you repeat that, please?

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