BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Amazing ...

This was one of those dollar store finds that really surprised me ... I picked it up because the title CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD pretty much describes my life in my seemingly never-ending job search. By Edward M. Hallowell M.D., an expert in Attention Deficit Disorder, the book was only vaguely the way I'd supposed it was going to be, and instead presented a "diagnosis" in the first half and a "treatment" in the second.

I had expected more of a "preachy" book about the bad habits that I and the rest of "type A" society exhibits, but the book deals more with humor and wry assessments than nagging, taking on, for example, the illusion of connection with TV shows: "(Today Show viewers) get the warm feeling that comes from connection the same way trompe l'oeil imparts the feeling of three dimensions. Close inspection, however, reveals that it's a trick." The author also has a whole vocabulary of made-up words to describe issues in the modern world, such as Gemmelsmerch for "the ubiquitous force that distracts us from what we're doing", and things such as "F-state" where one is frantic, frenzied, forgetful, flummoxed, frustrated, fragmented, etc. (as opposed to the "C-state" which is calm, cool, collected, etc.). Other words he introduces are Screensucking, time spent interfacing with TVs, computers, cell phones, and the like; Leeches & Lilies, the former being people and projects that suck your time and engery, while the latter are those which leave you fulfilled and satisfied; Doomdarts, which are obligations you've forgotten about that suddenly pop up and create panic; Gigaguilt, the feeling of the difference between what one can keep track of and what one expects oneself to keep track of; Taildogging, excesses induged in out of the fear that not doing so will leave one behind the pack; Frazzing, inefficient multi-tasking; and many others.

Dr. Hallowell frequently compares the modern "F-state" with ADD, where the brain becomes a souped-up racing car, but "The chief problem with this race car brain is that its brakes do not work well ... it can win races if it develops adequate brakes, but it will crash and burn if it doesn't." About half-way through the book he congratulates the reader for having made it that far, suggesting that many will simply "eat" the book in random chunks, and not actually read it! Interestingly, he picks out the popularization of air conditioning as the one technology that began the "speeding up" of the culture, and the diverging into small individual boxes, interfacing with more technology than people.

The second part of the book is called "creating a system that works for you" defined this way:
The central solution I offer in this book is this: Make sure you do what matters most to you. Everything else in this book is offered in support of that one goal. In order to reach it, you must regain the measure of control you ought to have and live actively, consciously, according to a system you have formulated yourself, which includes the creation of a positive emotional environment and your life's right rhythm.
To this end he provides various exercises, charts, and suggestions. One is very close to the 24/7 timesheets that I developed for my job search, which enable me to both make sure I'm putting in "enough hours" looking for work, but that I'm also not falling below a certain threshold for sleep. He has a three-factor "scoring system" which lets one determine what is valuable to you, which assigns an "effort" score between 1 and 5, a "fulfullment" score between 1 and 5, and a further "necessity" score between 1 and 5. An activity can rank between 1 and 125, with a 1 requiring maximum effort, being least fulfilling, and not being necessary, while a 125 would be easy, fulfilling, and needed (an example of a high score would be a relaxing shower). He suggests to try to eliminate, as much as possible, anything scoring lower than 25 (although some things, such as doing one's taxes, can be very difficult, highly unfulfilling, yet still necessary enough to compel us to do them). Several pages of charts with assorted activities are provided for the reader to score their lives with, and an area to total things up. A 10-point plan for disengaging from the low-scoring activities follows, with special attention (a couple of dozen specific sub-points) on dealing with assorted types of Gemmelsmerch.

The next part of this really surprised me. Hallowell passes along exercises from a Russian physical trainer who "stresses that the most significant limits we have are the mental limits we impose on ourselves" and insists on mental training as part of the physical regimen he puts his athlete students through. These are as simple as grids where one needs to point out the numbers 1-25 which are randomly distributed on 5x5 matrices and timing one's performance, to extremely difficult acts of concentration such as drawing different figures with both hands while tracing out others with one's feet! These reminded me somewhat of the sorts of things that various occult practitioners go through in training, which is hardly what I had expected in a book I thought was about "simplifying" one's life. The remaining bits of the book are suggestions on how to get these approaches set into one's habits and daily life, and how a few rare corporate entities are using similar things in an attempt to transcend the "standard" business grind and the blinders that come with it.

Needless to say, I was quite pleased to have discovered CrazyBusy, and I'm equally pleased to report that it (in a paperback edition) is still available, so should be obtainable via your local bookstore, but the hard-cover version I found at the dollar store can be had via the Amazon new/used guys for as little as 1¢ (plus shipping) for a "very good" copy. If you live your life "Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap" like I do, this is likely a very useful thing for you to pick up!

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Tags: book review

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