March 12, 2010

Reclaim your attention!


Many people, even close to me, even me at times, I think are feeling overwhelmed these days. Our attention is being pulled in too many directions, leaving us feeling overloaded, distracted, chaotic, spread thinly, without focus.

I get asked daily where I find the energy to do what I am doing, making 3 jobs work at once at the moment. The thing is, not 1 of them is sustainably working just yet for me to do only that, and being a young white male in SA means I need to be looking out for myself a little more than in years past. Just the way it is.

There are a million blogs, people, services, media, competing for our attention. Our attention is limited, and valuable, making it one of the most precious resources we have. I could spend my day reading blogs, twitter and connecting on Blackberry Messenger with my friends. Literally the whole day could be wasted, I kid you not.

The world wants that attention. Only you can decide where it goes. Repeat that sentence to yourself right now. Now do it again!

Your attention span determines the shape of your life. Then the amount of attention you give each energy dependant thing in your life also determines the shape of your life. Surely you can see that? Attention = reality. If you watch and read the news all the time, you will become obsessed with the latest crises. If you watch and read about celebrities, your life will revolve around them. If you socialize on social networks all day long, this will become your world.

If instead, you choose to give your attention to work you’re passionate about, that you feel is important, that will change your life and the world in some small way … this will become your life.

If you choose to give your attention to your friends, family and other loved ones — really give your attention to them instead of only half-heartedly while also checking text messages and emails and other updates — your life will be rich in many ways.

And so I urge you to sit up and take a deep breath. Walk around your office slowly. We are about to reclaim your attention!

1. Limit your friends. Not real-life friends, but social network and blogging and forum friends. Not that these can’t be good relationships, but having too many makes them meaningless. And each friend will take up a little bit of your attention — when you read their updates, click on their links, reply to their messages, look at their photos, and so on. The more you have, the more attention they’ll require. Limit them to just the essential. Read more on the people you care about, and less on the people you want attention from.

2. Limit your feeds. Blog subscriptions, newsletters, other updates and news subscriptions and so on. Limit them to a handful of essentials, and let the rest go. The more you have, the more attention they require. I recently cut my Google Reader down to 20 feeds, from the 80 or so I was following. Out with the drivel.

3. Limit your communication time. Going into your email inbox? Just give yourself 10 minutes to read, reply, delete, and get out. Going to do Twitter? Give yourself 5 minutes. Seriously, set up a timer. Don’t let these things take up all your attention.

4. Stop watching the news. FULL STOP. It sucks.

5. Give your attention to the important. This is the crucial part: choose what you give your attention to, and do this choosing carefully. What is important to you? Writing? Photography? Design? Coding? Creating a new business that helps others? Your kids? Figure this out, and give this the majority of your attention.

6. Become conscious of your distractions. Once you’ve decided to focus your attention on the important, become more aware of distractions as they come up. Make note of them, and as you get the urge to be distracted, learn to pause, breathe, and return to the important.

7. Surround yourself with the positive. If you want your life to be positive, let the positive have your attention. This applies to blogs, people, projects, and more.

I am not saying that I can do all of this, or that I am even doing 1 of these things. They are positive points that come to mind from my feeds, from my time spent trying to regain my attention. I am pulled in many directions each day at the moment, trying to claim a life of meaning and quality over quantity. I am getting there. I cut out 2 projects this week, and have cut out 8 this year in total already. Things that were just stealing attention without providing any real incentive.

Mind clutter dot com is not a great place to be. Reclaim your attention today.

3 Comments on “Reclaim your attention!

Tyron Bache
March 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Wow I have needed to hear this today, haven’t stopped. Makes me think of signal vs noise, sometimes my days are just filled with noise and no signal. Love this quote
“4. Stop watching the news. FULL STOP. It sucks.” – brilliant post thanks!

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March 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

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