Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Big Dig and Executive Dysfunction

WDNR ScheduleImage via Wikipedia
Well, I've been cleaning and organizing like a Tazmanian devil. I am not always following a set schedule.  I had Toodledo'd with a list of things to do.  Toodledo magically prioritized my activities and created a schedule.     I cheerfully ignored that plan since straightening out and organizing my crap took much longer to do than what I had allocated in Toodledo.   Well, I can start Toodledo this week now that I have an organized house.  In case you don't know what Toodledo is, Toodledo is a GITD (Get It Done) app with an automatic scheduler for people like me who can't seem to figure out what to do first.

The first thing I did in this frenzy was Paper-krieg -- blitzkrieg on paper.  You know, we Americans go to war a lot.  I mean, there's the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, and the War on Drugs.  We militarize our rescue efforts in New Orleans after Katrina. We are trying to talk militarily about the cleanup of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  So, why not Paper-kreig?  So, armed with my iPhone I went into battle.

The first thing I did was to put all my important numbers -- bank cards, credit cards, shopping cards, auto vin #, license plate number, license number, etc in the Keeper on my iPhone.  The Keeper is an encrypted app that stores important info.    This is useful because I am continually reaching for cards that are never where I need them to be.

Next, I scanned in all my important papers into Evernote in my iPhone.  Now, they park  in the iPhone, backed up on my Mac and reside in a cloud somewhere in the Internet.  I threw out 1 1/2 recycling bins of papers that had been decorating my house: on the stand near my favorite chair, in my extra bedroom, in the master bedroom, on the desk in the office, on the floor in the office, on the file cabinet, in the inbox, under the inbox, and around the inbox.  So now, everything that comes in the mail gets looked at and  thrown out if its not esential, gets put in a Pending file if it's something that I need to take action on (like paying a bill), or gets scanned and then thrown out.

It feels healthy... kinda like I went to a spa and for a cleansing regime of tonics and detoxifiers.

All this took a lot longer than what I thought. Originally, I thought that this would take an afternoon. It took a week.  So Toodledo got put off.

All this paper organizing has been like the Big Dig in Boston where they put in the new subway line. Every step took way longer than planned.   Each day, I kept thinking I would finish that day.

My husband got inspired and started flinging his papers about.  We, then decided to do the nasty -- no, not that -- and move my husband's desk out of the bedroom and into the office.   We now have a place  in the bedroom where we can transform into a bit of a sitting room.  I need to stop slouching in bed while  typing on the computer.  Poor posture   craps out my neck and exacerbates my arthritis.  The living room furniture is too deep for me to sit in comfortably and I end up slouching.  We have a pleasant reading room that I use in the summer, but it is a bit too drafty in the winter.

Well, that involved undoing all my good housekeeping and tearing up the upstairs as we are not just moving any desk.  Never mind removing all the junk on the desk.   This is a whopping, big Steelcase desk with an overhead case.  So it's a huge deal to take apart and put back together again.  Plus, we had to  dismantle our network and my husband's PC and reassemble them again.

In the middle of this, my husband was near death from exhaustion.  Apparently, the push for organization had sucked the life blood out of him.  He started with an initial burst of enthusiasm and had stormed his junk with elan but began to flag in the winter slog through the Ardennes.  (I'm mixing metaphors here).   I think he felt like one of the Battling Bastards of the Bastogne.  Bloodied and crawling through the mounds of crap.

So what's this got to do with executive function?  I did a little self-evaluation here:   Plan, Marshall Resources, Organize, Execute, Evaluate.

 I did have a plan to do the other things which I entered into Toodledo.   I ignored most of those tasks and didn't get done what I wanted to. However, I am organized for next week. Inaccurate time estimation led to flawed  planning for cleaning.

Marshalling Resources and Organizing wasn't too bad for either the Paper-Kreig or the next cleanup.

Execution was satisfactory.  However,  I couldn't transition out of Paper-Kreig easily.  I had declared war.   I was in for the duration.  Sometimes it felt like the siege of Stalingrad ... and that if I just held out, victory would be around the corner.    I do notice that transitions are a problem.  I can become overly involved in something.  I just can't put it down and move on to the next tasks.  (Part of the problem with perseveration).    I did want to do my Toodledo list, but I just couldn't put it down.

Another problem is that I am an associative thinker and not a linear one.  I think that a lot of the task lists don't  work for me.  A lot of scheduling and planning techniques  just don't quite work for me either.   Transitioning from one disjoint task to the next is hard.  I do use lists  when I must. I just grit my teeth and work through them.  Being an associative thinker is perfect for when I want to be creative and when I want to synthesize but it is lousy for working through lists.

My lousy motor skills include problems in motor planning.  If you don't have a good body map and can't sequence what you are going to do next with your body, you can't  plan how to use your body's motor skills.     Clumsiness leads to poor planning.  The different therapies I have pursued rewire motor skills and affect  higher level cognition.  Tomatis/Balametrics therapy has improved a lot of things here and the Interactive Metronome will improve even more.  Change the Body.  Change the Mind.

The Interactive Metronome will also help my Auditory Processing Disorder.    I may do Fast Forward (a computerized therapy that retrains the brain on hearing), as well.  Part of Auditory Processing Disorder impacts executive function and organization.  Change the Body Change the Mind.

Also, my audiologist had recommended Brain Fitness by Posit Science... a brain game that uses a special protocol known as SAAGE that  improves the brain’s ability to receive, interpret, and store the information it receives from the senses.  SAAGE stands for Speed, Accuracy, Adaptibility, Generalizability, and Engagement.  So Executive Function will  increase further as I do more therapy.  However, you've  got to live in the mean time, so I am doing what I can.

On another note,  I do like to use pictures... I'm not autistic  unlike the famous scientist, Temple Gardin, who sees life like watching a video. However,  I don't work well with all text.... despite the blogging.
Vision therapy has  helped me regain my eyesight and use  visual thinking more often.  Since planning and organizing live in the visual spatial portion of the brain, I  am trying to visualize my day and my week.   It seems to help to visualize the schedule either in terms of blocks of time through out the week (i.e., visualize iCalendar or Outlook) or to visualize a clock with icons hanging off of it.

I still haven't overcome the executive dysfunction or  planning and organizational problems that first led me to seek help, but I think that I am progressing.  I think the physical therapy has helped me by reorganizing  my motor skills and motor planning ability.  Poor motor skills and motor planning   have adversely impacted higher cognitive functions such as organization.

So how will this flurry of organization be any different from others?  I don't know the answer yet.  In the past, I've gone through organizational cycles of massive cleanup, organization, and then lassitude. I've felt overwhelmed from trying to stay   organized.  Disintegration into indolence follows lassitude  and then a reprise of the whole cycle.  As day follows night and as night follows day,  so has my cleanup led to organization led to not keeping up with stuff and feeling overwhelmed and then deterioratng and  wallowing in a mess and then another bout of cleaning.

 Maybe there will be a bit of forward motion this time.   I think scanning things into my iPhone will eliminate a lot of clutter in my life.  A lot of clutter around the house results from papers not having a home.  So, I can put an end to the paper-Krieg.  A certain amount of not getting things done results from not knowing where my papers are so that I can address the task at hand. Sometimes, I am late because I don't have all my records together.

Using a calendar with reminders to a phone helps a lot. I still have to develop a sense of time and figure out how to transition to other activities.   More on this topic will  appear in a later post.

There's  a long way to go... but maybe between fighting off Paper-Krieg and having automated reminders there is a start.




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