Today a client lamented that no matter how well she prioritized, constant impingements from "the feed" kept taking her attention.  This is our world.  No matter what job we get or freedom we attain from this or that obligation, data continues to come at us, and asks for an instant response.  We buy something and we’re not done.  We have to complete a survey—about the product, the merchant, the delivery service and then the survey.  Could we have improved the experience of taking a survey?  I’m only little bit kidding.  The need for feedback seems to fold in on itself as it multiplies in some kind of quantum equation I am not qualified to generate.  

Just this morning, after my iPhone tragically demanded to be erased after a software update, I rediscovered a podcast called All in the Mind, and heard some research into the process of social networking.  People make better decisions when communicating with each other, but only up to a point.  When the communication proliferates, it begins to repeat the same loops and we get dumber.  For me, the IQ drop is palpable.  When I’m inundated, I feel tense and panicked and just want it to stop.  The tricky part is that I might make it stop in the quickest way, which could be the dumbest way, meaning that the consequence makes the situation worse.  Like saying Yes to something I’ll regret.  or saying No to something I want because I forgot that I wanted it, or finishing an unimportant task so that I can get to the important one and then never getting to the important one because the unimportant task triggered more details—like the survey!  No, really, I don’t do surveys, but I have to at least read the headline in the email and delete it, and each one of these things takes a nick out of my attention.   And attention, like willpower, is limited.  

I believe that attention is the most precious thing we have, and when it is seized, it is a monumental theft.  If the ads on the subway or the internet or the billboards are taking up space in my mind, then I am inhabited, even possessed by the people/corporations who planted them.  

How do we draw a boundary?  It’s a process of course.  Once I made up an acronym, DIPS:  Determination, Intention, Practice, Support.  Frustration creates determination. I need space and time!   So we set an intention.  I will limit email to once per day, at 6pm.  Then we practice.  When I feel the urge at 10am, I will notice the sensation and return to my chosen activity.  Support:  Who is with me?   What can hold me when I falter?

Today I want to emphasize support.  Support can be a buddy who feels the same way and can listen and troubleshoot with you.  It can be a therapist.  It can be your own writing as you observe your efforts to practice.  But without reminders, we travel the well-worn path.  Stimulation trumps boredom every time unless we decide that it won’t, make a plan, and then practice practice practice.  applause.  more practice.   

I vow to give whole-hearted attention to the most important thing.  Will you join me?  

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Reader Comments (1)

The attention deficit is, I believe, the plague of our time, and I'm really glad you'r addressing it. You've made some great suggestions--they deserve everyone's attention. Some if us will struggle with the onslaught of distractions in our own way, but the onslaught can't be denied. I join you in the resistance!!

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarina

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