Edward Hallowell on Crazy Busy

I first heard of Edward Hallowell a year ago, when reading John Ratey’s book SPARK. Ratey and Hallowell collaborated on books about ADHD, and I eventually purchased one of them, Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adolescence. At least, to the best of my memory, that was the book. I never actually read the book, due to a purely emotional response that prevented me from going any further after scanning the text. Somewhere in the last third of the book I stumbled upon mention of our local high school and stopped to read about Hallowell’s experience with some of the personnel and programs at the school. His description did not jive with what I knew of the school, and this colored my sensibilities to the point where I gave the book away to a student who was researching the subject. That was the end of my association with Edward Hallowell until encountering him at last November’s Learning and the Brain conference.

Hallowell kicked off the morning series of keynotes with an engaging talk, Crazy Busy: Dealing with an Overstretched, Overbooked, Distracted Life. A prolific author, in 2007 he had published a book with a similar name, Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast-Paced Life. I have not read this book, but suspect that Hallowell’s talk mirrored much of the book. It was just Ed and the audience, no slides, just a comfortable presenter and lively story teller. His authenticity was never in doubt, as in addition to his professional credentials, Edward Hallowell has ADD and dyslexia. He knows of what he speaks.

Lingering is a dying art

Modern life poses a number of challenges, among them dealing with the variety and quantity of information that comes galloping towards us on a daily basis. If we set ourselves the task of managing all of this input, then we will have difficulty finding the time to relax and linger. Hallowell went on to note that we become “victims of our own enthusiasm”, of which we may have infinite quantities, but which is balanced by finite quantities of energy. At this point he had me thinking of the lyrics to an old camp song:

Mmm Mmm, I want to linger
Mmm Mmm, a little longer
Mmm Mmm a little longer with you

As with many of the conference’s keynoters, Hallowell talked a bit about the myth of multitasking, which he said we do as a way to deal with all of that information overload. Well, we think we are multitasking, but we are really just switching quickly between each task, and the result is that we wind up doing none of them particularly well. He cautioned that “if any one of the tasks is cognitively demanding” we should not, and probably do not, multitask.

No multitasking with this post, or rather, no multi-messaging. I will stop here and let you linger on the thoughts, and return in a few days to reconnect, which is what Hallowell next spoke about – connections.


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