Can't Focus? Maybe All You Need Is a Messy Bun

Don't let the casual work space fool you. Her messy bun might mean she means business. (Photo: StockLite/Shutterstock)
can't focus cartoon

If you've ever had long hair, chances are at some point you've put a pencil or pen through your hair to hold it up in a bun. I've used writing utensils and even sticks to hold my hair on top of my head. They work surprising well. In college when my hair was at its longest, I climbed Masada and then floated in the Dead Sea with just one pencil keeping my hair in a bun all day long. After that experience, you'd think I would make sure to always have a hair band or barrette close by, but I can never seem to find one.

Yet when I sit down to work, almost inevitably I end up with my hair piled on top of my head at some point. It usually goes up right around the time I'm about to get down to business and focus — after I've checked Facebook and Twitter one too many times and gotten my third cup of coffee. In fact, one of those times I was checking my Facebook feed, I discovered I'm not alone in needing my hair contained before I can focus. I came across the cartoon above, and I suddenly felt a little less alone in the world.

On Facebook, illustrator Loryn Brantz simply commented above the cartoon, "Why is this a thing?" I felt an immediate kinship with Brantz.

I asked Brantz — a professional illustrator and designer whose resume includes working Jim Henson's Workshop, authoring and illustrating several children's books, and contributing regularly to BuzzFeed — what inspired her to create this particular cartoon.

"I often draw comics about things that actually happen to me," she said. "So one time after pulling up my hair to focus, I noticed this is something I do — a lot. I figured others must, too. So I made a cartoon about it!"

This is a thing, but I don't know why

Pencils can help you be productive in more than one way. (Photo: Alexey Dadanov/Shutterstock)

She was right! It's not just Brantz and I who can't focus as well with our hair down. More than 3,000 people chimed in on her post. No one had a definitive answer to her question, but almost everyone could relate. There were theories, though.

"If you tie your hair up it gives you a larger field of view which increases your attention/focus power and now that the weight of your hair isn't everywhere on your head it gives a feeling of balance," one person guessed.

"Maybe my creative energy is stored in my upper back/shoulders, and when my hair is touching that area, it sucks up that creative energy?" was another guess at why it's a thing.

"By minusculy [sic] pulling on your hair when you tie it up you are improving blood circulation to your brain," was yet another shot at figuring it out.

There were hundreds of people who tagged someone else and said, "This is you!" Apparently, not only is this a thing, the "busy bun" is something that others notice when their friends do it.

Brantz, who "always, always, always" puts her hair up when she's working, was surprised by the number of people who responded.

"I thought their would definitely be a solid handful of people in agreement," she said, "but it was more than I expected." She has her own explanation for why this is may be a thing — for her at least.

"I think it just feels distracting on some level to have hair touching your neck. Also for me it makes me feel warm, and I have trouble focusing when I overheat — much like a computer," she said.

For me, my hair can be a distraction, particularly when I let its natural curls come out instead of straightening it. There are many more fly away hairs when that happens.

Still, there's no concrete answer as to why this is a thing, but clearly it is — for women at least. One man responded to Brantz post by saying, "I'm a man with long hair and it doesn't happen to me, what kind of sorcery is this?"

No sorcery here, just a lot of women who realized at some point that somehow a messy bun gets stuff done.

Now I'm wondering. If I stick a pencil through my hair as soon as I sit down at my desk in the morning, will it stop me from checking Facebook and Twitter one too many times? Perhaps this could be just the thing I need to get down to work faster so maybe, just maybe, I can find time to write that next book I want to write.

feminist baby loryn Brantz

By the way, this isn't Brantz' only long-hair themed cartoon. She has one that's a bit NSFW, but pretty spot on about 13 Times Sex With Long Hair Isn't Sexy. Her art is often a commentary on the ordinary stuff of life — long hair problems, the differences between dogs and cats, our often contradictory habits — with a tinge of liberal politics and feminism. Actually, there's more than a tinge of feminism. Her next children's book will be published in April, and it's titled "Feminist Baby." It's a board book that's definitely meant for little ones, but from the pages I've seen already, everyone is going to learn a little something about equality when reading it, while also being highly entertained by this baby who "chooses what to wear and if you don't like it she doesn't care."