phasing out

We all love watching sitcoms these days as opposed to movies. Yes, I do go to the cinemas once in a while, but I would rather download and flop on the couch for a sitcom marathon, than pick a movie from my 2TB collection.

It has been proven that books somehow rewire the brain, and improve your power of concentration and retention. Motion pictures on the other hand, reduce your ability to concentrate and if you observe, it is hard to read a few pages after watching a movie. I could once read a 400-page book in a day unable resist the suspense of where the story would take me. Now, I can’t get through two pages as the thought of having to get through 400-pages of words to visualize and know the story frustrates me. Also, it is hard to retain the information on one page with my mind flailing like a chicken. How would I remember what happened on page 1 when I can’t keep up with what’s happening on page 5?

The same lack of focus is a boon when it comes to blocking out people during a conversation. Let’s say you are with a couple of friends, and someone is going on about her new date which went so wrong for hours together. You are bound to get bored after a couple of minutes, because you obviously don’t care!

Like everyone our age, I was enlightened by the secret to escape useless conversations without facing consequences: The art of phasing out. For those who are unaware, it the simple technique of daydreaming, with your eyes fixed on the subject and a faux participation in the conversation with an occasional word or two, while your mind drifts away to ruminate on things that make you happy. So in the example I stated, I would nod, nod, smile and say, “Yea… I totally get it! How could he do that!” while I’m actually thinking of what to have for dinner or singing to Ed Sheeran in my head.

Now I must admit, phasing out is a dangerous thing. As you secretly smile, and coddle this Precious power, it gets stronger and becomes a part of you that you cannot control. At one point in your life, it becomes an involuntary response, and this is when you don’t even notice your Precious showing up at times uninvited. To an entrepreneur it can be fatal. I didn’t quite realize its deadly power until I found myself losing bits of information to those amazing conference rooms. Initially I drove myself paranoid thinking I was losing my memory. Turns out, my mind automatically blocked out whatever the clients said the minute I found it to be long, tortuous, and boring. So I’d spend an hour and half at the table, trying to comprehend what Mr. Smith (not a real person) was saying, while I would have actually listened to him for the first ten minutes, and then conveniently started nodding, as Precious took me to a world of music, pasta and dogs.

One Saturday, in June 2014, I received a call from a prospective client who wanted a few samples of content before she decided to hire us. At the time, I was working all day, everyday, and did not mind calls from clients on the weekends or sometimes past working hours. She began briefing me over the phone, when I stopped her and requested her to send an official mail instead to avoid any miscommunication or skipping of details. For reasons unknown, she insisted on on-call brief, and although I tried very hard to concentrate, Precious took my eyes around the room I was in. It was a beautiful restaurant, and the plates with cosmopolitan dishes on the table looked absolutely delicious, drawing attention to my hunger. And by the time, I realized it, I had lost all focus on the call.

Needless to say, after that day, I have been fighting hard to not phase out wherever I am. However, when I do look back, the times that I am forced out of my mind to look for means of entertainment is when a client is needlessly circling around a subject that is unnecessary for the discussion, and ultimately wasting my time, which is obviously be used well to work on the project. Then again, I do find myself feeling helpless trying to get through a meeting when I am in a state of suspension – can’t phase out, can’t phase back, drifting around on a leash, until they say, “Ok Shruti, that’s it for the day.”

– to be continued…