Getting distracted? Here’s the week when focus can be more of a challenge

My Hormonology

Getting distracted? Here’s the week when focus can be more of a challenge

wigglearrow1As a health journalist for a weekly women’s magazine in the U.S., I have continual deadlines. Some weeks, I can spit out all my articles super-quick. Other weeks, well, things aren’t so speedy.

Last week, I was not having quite a few those not-so-speedy days.

Which at first seems weird because it was also my Week 2–when estrogen and testosterone peak, giving me the most mental and physical energy I could possibly hope for all cycle.

And yet, this is one of those instances when too much of a good thing can turn bad.

A 2008 study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology shows that during your Week 2 (starting 8 days from the onset of your period and lasting through ovulation), you’re likely going to find it more difficult to concentrate. Especially as you get closer and closer to  ovulation.

As researchers explain it, a high level of estrogen is over-exciting your brain, making you more easily distracted.

I noticed this in myself whenever I would interrupt writing an article to do research for it on the Internet: I’d type a search request into a search engine to look up a specific topic only to spot an unrelated yet interesting item on the results page. Or, I’d have a random question pop into my head, making me so curious that I needed to search for that instead.

Three searches about 3D mammograms, two searches about canine vacations and one search about the meaning of the song Gloria by U2 later, I realized I was stuck in the Week 2 distraction trap.

By comparison, now that I’m in my Week 3, I’ve gotten quite a few projects completed more quickly that have been lingering on my to-do list. According to this same 2008 study, I can thank a dip in estrogen and rise in progesterone, which combine to slow my thoughts down a bit, helping me concentrate on one topic more effectively.

So, now that you know you’ve got more mental energy–but are more prone to distraction–in your Week 2, what can you do to harness all that hormonal oomph to focus on one task till it’s complete?

Here’s a simple technique I’ve been using: When I’m working in my Week 2, I keep two lists:

1. A list of all the things I definitely need to research for my article (or a list of any other task that needs to be done for whatever project I’m trying to finish).

2. A list of all the other stuff that popped up on my radar that I was curious about investigating–but wasn’t related to my project so could be put off till later.

This way, I can focus on my work–while also making sure I don’t forget to look into all the more interesting things I want to check out after my article was submitted.

And with that system, I seem to get a lot more done. Hopefully, it works for you, too!

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