“The same way the proliferation of junk food f***ed up our bodies in the 20th century, the exponential growth in junk information has f***ed up the emotions and minds in the 21st century.” - Mark Manson in his Attention diet article
It is getting quite obvious that something's gotta give. Our attention has quickly become an established commodity for big businesses. Big businesses are constantly trying to capture our attention digitally and otherwise with notifications, Ads, Sponsored content, deals, etc, the list goes on. And guarding against these constant onslaughts is our fundamental responsibility IMHO.
The main issue, however, is that we are made to believe that we are in ‘love’ with these seemingly innocuous attacks. Our brains have been trained to crave these distractions as the inner dialogue goes to the tune of -
"Let me tap on that notification. It was meant for me to tap it."
"I configured it after all. Nothing wrong with it."
"Let me go watch that video Bob shared. He wants me to check it out."
"This work can wait. I need some entertainment to destress."
Doesn't this behavior seem a tad irrational? In a post COVID world where we are forced to spend more time alone and online, it becomes even more important to address this recurring behavior pattern.
So how do we reclaim our attention and our constantly dissipating energy?
Step 1: See the problem clearly and wake up
The digital ecosystem controlled by large corporations has been designed to keep us oblivious to the problem at large. So the first step is to see the problem for what it is and wake up to a new realization to address it on priority.
Self-awareness & self-study is the first step towards really seeing the problem as it is. It takes some practice & discipline to get into a space of absolute honesty with ourselves.
An age-old tool to increase self-awareness and start an objective relationship with oneself is journaling. There are two ways of doing this:
One is a qualitative approach where you journal at the end of the day on how your day went, how you spent our attention vis-a-vis our energy. One needs to commit to the process and remind oneself that it's you vs you with nobody around to judge. Here are some opening questions to get you started:
How did I spend my attention & energy today?
How did I feel today?
When did I feel most energetic?
When did I feel most driven?
How can I do better?
The second approach is to quantitatively log how you spend your time regularly. Looking at your App usage statistics on your phone could be quite revealing. It is important that this process is as automated as possible and not tracked manually. We would recommend Moment for iOS and Android and Timely for your laptop tracking.
Analyze yourself for a week at least to start seeing patterns that could be addressed. Chances are, these behaviors will automatically start correcting themselves by the end of your week. The subconscious mind likes to work in the shadows and the moment you shed light on its workings, it feels exposed and recedes. But be warned that this part of the subconscious mind is always looking for a brief moment of unawareness to jump back into old patterns.
Step 2: Block out the obvious distractions
Once you work on developing your self-awareness, you are well on your way to plugging away those attention and energy leaks. And blocking out certain obvious distractors can speed up the process.
Moment for iOS and Android and Timely for your laptop tracking can help. You can configure them to block out or limit time on the binge-worthy apps. While you still need some of these apps for day-to-day functioning, they're designed to hold your attention. So the only way to stop yourself from getting carried away is to block them intentionally while doing deep work.
Step 3: Schedule your Social media & OTT consumption
Apart from limiting your time on these platforms, it also helps to schedule your time in advance. While scheduling does need some discipline, it goes a long way in ensuring that your attention and energy are preserved for the good things in life. Google Calendar is your friend here. Use it not just for your work, but also to schedule your entertainment and other social activities as well.
This concludes Part 1 of this post. We will address how to manage our internal triggers in Part 2 of the post. Thanks for joining us on this journey of self-introspection.
If you are passionate about reclaiming your attention, please join our waitlist on Turia.ai.