Managing attention

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Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.
~Susan Sontag

Last week’s post, The Value of Attention, got some attention from my friends (thank you guys!). I got valuable feedback on it. Apparently everybody is having this ‘attention management’ problem challenge, many people can relate to it.

Here are some articles I found about attention management:

And a blog dedicated to attention management:

My previous post, and also the above links, talked about how our attention is a limited resource, it is not infinite, hence we have to manage it. On this post I’m sharing a recap of what I’ve been trying to do to manage my attention.

1. Ditch TV and limit Youtube. Nowadays everything on TV can be found online as well – so we can forget about TV altogether. Youtube is on-demand, so we are in control on what to watch. Only watch what we intend to watch, not channel surfing nor mindless browsing. My friend Ashish Sahani wrote this:

There is this black god occupying the central place in our home. We worship it every day for hours together. We love it and keep staring at it, all day long. Every few minutes we do it’s aarati* with an instrument called remote. The only solution to peace in our lives is to lift it to the window and give it a slight push. Truly an idiot box. This box, right now before you isn’t any smarter either. [My addition: neither is the little box in our hands]

*aarati: a Hindu religious ritual of worship

2. Pay attention at the first time. Very often because we weren’t giving full attention on the first attempt to the task at hand, we make mistakes, that later will need to be corrected, that further consumes our already limited attention. And if we still don’t pay attention the second time, again we may make mistakes, and so on, it becomes a endless attention-consuming cycle.

3. Simplify. The more things we have in our mind, the more thinly spread our attention. A big part of simplifying life is decluttering, both physical space and psychological space. I’m no expert in decluttering, having grown with parents that tend to packrat, but slowly over time I manage to let go more stuff. Something interesting I read a while back – there’s a reason why Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Obama dress the same everyday. They’re simplifying their wardrobe. That way they don’t need to use their precious limited attention to make decision on “What should I wear today?” And think about it, what to wear is one of the first major decision we have to take every day (the ladies reading this are nodding their head).

4. Meditate. One thing I often hear from my friends when discussing about meditation is “I can’t empty the mind during meditation, my thoughts are running all over the place”. Most people have this conception that meditation equals to emptying the mind. Well yes in a way it is, but it’s not as simple as we sit down and pour the mind out and mind becomes empty. Thoughts will always be there, with consistent practice they will become less gripping, and we will start to see more space around the thoughts. Like any other skills it needs to be practiced and experienced, just reading about it won’t make any difference. Om Swami wrote about Two Types of Meditation, have a look if you’d like to gain more understanding about meditation.

These 4 things I have been trying to apply in my life, and they help me manage my attention. There are more, but as I am currently travelling I have limited access to computer and couldn’t write properly. To be continued.

Related to this post within this blog:

  • Unclutter – a post from 2009 about my attempt to declutter

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One thought on “Managing attention

  1. Pingback: Attention, productivity & spirituality | perpetual work in progress

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