Attention Splatter: The Top Ten Cleaning Solutions - Christine Kane

Note: This post is Part 3 of a multi-part series. Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2.

By now, you probably know whether or not you are prone to Attention Splatter. Here are the top ten solutions that have helped me (or are helping me) clean up my splattered attention. Keep in mind that this stuff takes persistence. I still work at it every day. And I still have days where I am splattered all over the place. However, the following practices have helped make these days less common.

1 – Lighten the load.

Consider having no more than one to three priorities for the day.

Let’s face it. There’s only so many things you can get done in a day and still enjoy the day. Get into the habit of spending five minutes each night deciding what top thing you want to get done the next day. Ask yourself, “If I only accomplish one thing tomorrow, which one thing would make me most happy to have accomplished?” (Or something less grammatically awkward.) Then, when you know that one priority, ask yourself the same thing about the next activity. Avoid insanely long to-do lists that make you short of breath before you even go to sleep. These only set you up for splatter.

This also goes for too many big goals all at once. For instance, if you’re a teacher, and you have four kids under age eight and you have the summer off, it might be too harsh to set a goal to write a novel this summer. Maybe instead, you could write the first chapter. Too many goals (or goals that are too big) are a surefire way to invite Attention Splatter.

2 – Know the task before you sit down at the computer.

This is a must for me. And I don’t always remember to do it. When I don’t, I can get lost in the millions of non-items that a computer has to offer. When I do, I actually get things done. Assign tasks. (i.e. “Clean out email folders”) Assign times. (“From 1pm to 2pm”) Stop as soon as the end time arrives. And then go lie on top of your dog and give her kisses on her nose.

3 – Create a NOT-TO-DO list.

Keep this posted near your desk. Make sure that “Worry” is one of the items.

4 – Put an end to bleedy activities.

How do you do this? You schedule them as actual activities. Instead of letting email bleed all over your day -all day every day – schedule email as an activity at a certain time each day. Instead of checking stats throughout your day every day, schedule them as a once-a-week exercise in building a better blog. Bleedy activities should be the number one item on your not-to-do list. Every activity should have a home – a space for its completion. Otherwise, you set yourself up for a full day of splatter.

5 – Use small chunks of time.

It’s easy to look up at the clock and see that you have, say, 45 minutes before an appointment and think, “Well, I don’t have time to do anything substantial. So, I guess I’ll just go on line.” This is when you do nothing but splattery activities. And it’s wildly unfulfilling. I have written so many blog posts by challenging myself to make use of the hour I have in between appointments. Learn to fit constructive things in to small chunks of time. I teach songwriting students (most of whom have jobs and other priorities) to fit 20 minutes in every day to write songs. It works.

6 – Set challenging end times.

The longer you think a task is going to take, the longer it will take. Here’s an example from my own life:

I suck at business travel. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a Taurus. But every time I have a tour or an upcoming show, it’s just a big mess for me to get ready.

So, in an attempt to coddle my bad traveler self, I used to schedule the entire day before my departure as a “packing” day. Consequently, it always took me a full day to pack. I could get other stuff done, but I was so splattered, I never actually focused fully on packing.

So, this year, I started scheduling only an hour to pack. ONE hour. This might seem like a no-brainer to you, but it changed everything for me. Once I stopped allowing the entire day before travel to be consumed by the nebulous idea of “PACKING,” it ceased to be such a big deal. AND, I spend less time worrying and dreading and obsessing.

7 – Segment intend.

This is my favorite process in Ask and It is Given. Before you begin any activity, set an intention for that activity. Intend your desired outcome and how you want to feel during the activity. This works remarkably well. And you don’t have to get all woo-woo and fire up the incense or anything. You can just sit for a second and make the intention. It’s easy. But it’s powerful.

8 – Cut the fat.

Most of us have way too many incoming emails, group emails, magazine subscriptions, news aggregate feeds, TiVo-ed tv shows, memberships, and unread books. My theory is that humans simply weren’t meant to take all that in. It’s no wonder so many people are diagnosed with ADD. Get your life in order. Get rid of anything that doesn’t feed you. If you subscribe to it, ask yourself why. Start letting go of stuff. Doing this one thing has helped me create a home and office environment that is healthy and sacred. I am ruthless about keeping the incoming stuff to a minimum.

9 – Allow for splattering WITHIN an activity.

When I plan a workshop or write a song or work on a blog, I allow for splatter time. I call it “moodling.” Rarely do I just sit down and outline a class or a song or a blog. I allow for lots of thinking, imagining, and playing. From the outside, it might look like unproductive meandering. But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s where I find the muse. And even in left brain work, like planning my classes for the federal government, the muse has to guide me. I know that every teacher and writer is different. (I read bloggers who write about how they get an idea, then they outline it, then they write it. I am not that writer.) So, I allow for play-time. I add on about a half hour at the start of anything for moodle time. Then the creation of the thing is part moodle, part high-focus action. That’s a natural part of creativity. Delight in it.

10 – Be present in your down-time.

In other words, when you take a nap, take a nap. When you’re taking a Saturday off, really take it off. Turn off the computer. Get out of your office. Go away. I think most of us are so splattered because we’ve forgotten how to relax, have fun, rest, and stop working. Especially if you’re a blogger, you need to take time away from the computer. Self-employed people and bloggers and artists can always work. There’s always something to do. So, fully disengaging from all of it for fun is imperative. Plus, it will fill the well and allow you to return with renewed energy!

As always, your suggestions are welcome in the comments!

  • Christine Kane

    Hey sylvia – the sacred environment thing is spot on. I make sure that I live in a spacious and light filled place – and it helps with the splattering in so many ways.

    thanks loretta! yes, one of the possible consequences of telling people to cut the fat – is that i might be one of the cuts! and that’s okay too! 🙂 but i’m glad to hear that i made your cut. and i’m glad to hear that you took this advice to heart. go girl!

    hey petra, and thanks. my acupuncturist and i talked about this very thing that you wrote here — it’s SO easy to not take a day off cuz there’s ALWAYS something to do. the best and deepest gift to give yourself is that full day off. and NO guilt!

    hi carl! wow! thanks so much. which person was your wife? i’m happy to know that you’re reading my blog based on her experience at LAP. i love teaching there. and i understand completely what you must be dealing with – the office environment can be so crazy. thanks for writing in – and i hope this helps!

    zach -onamonapeic is most definitely a word! (okay, and i know i’ve pointed this out before – but one of my favorite west wing episodes is when one of the russian translators uses the word “onamonapeic.” anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

    thanks karen! and happy birthday to your 2-year-old. how great!

    hi adam – it’s funny. i get lots of requests for coaching these days. (but never the “splatter reduction” request!) and i’m actually thinking of doing a five-week program in september that mirrors the retreats i do. i’ll let you know!

  • Adam Donkus

    They are all great, want to be my Splatter reduction coach? lol…just kidding, it does sound like a position that will soon be in demand in these overly stimulating times we live.

    You have been stumbled again.

  • Karen Lynch-Live the Power

    I have appreciated this series very much! I can really relate!
    Today is my 2 year old’s birthday celebration so I’m turning off this computer and I won’t be back!! Just like you advised! (not really an easy thing for me to do!!)
    Wish me luck!!

  • zach

    Nice. I like the first four especially. Good concrete suggestions.

    Splatter strikes me as a funny word too. Very onamonapeic. Except I don’t think onamonapeic is a word.

  • Carl Dane

    Dear Christine,

    This reply is about the blog topic. But first I must explain that my wife attended a federal workshop you facilitated recently with the OPM. I too am a federal employee. I spend my entire contribution managing process improvement using concept tools like Lean and Theory of Constraints.

    Everything you mention in this blog is at the heart of what I am living and struggling with personally, professionally and organizationally. Turning the daily multitasked chaotic grind into more self fulfilling focused and productive activity, benefiting both the job objectives and the people seems to be a huge almost insurmountable challenge most of the time. Gosh. I could go on and on.

    I was astounded to read your thoughts and advice so simply and elegantly stated in a way that speaks to the heart of an individual.

    Thank you so much for what you do, and your music.

    Sincerely, Carl

  • Petra

    Number 10–that’s a good one. Not so easy for me to follow, though. But it’s so true. I always want to get some stuff done over the weekend, but on Saturdays (and it is invariably a Saturday), I procrastinate. A lot. Oh, I’ll do (fill in task) later, but first I want to go running. Or read. Or nap. Or head on down to Trader Joe’s. Or hang out in a bookstore. All the while, I’ve got the “work baggage” on my back. And I never do any work, I just feel guilty about NOT doing work. On the other hand, if I just give myself permission to refrain from work TOTALLY for the day, I actually enjoy the day and I’m more into the present. So thanks Christine, for number 10!

  • Loretta R.

    Thank you for freeing me! I used your advise to “cut the fat” and unsubscribed to oh so many emails and newsletters that I’ve been deleting because I just don’t have the time to read… AND felt guilty about it. I’m looking forward to a mail box full of the good stuff I do read…and yes, your newsletter falls into the good stuff category!

  • Sylvia C.

    I have been waiting for this one!
    Thanks! It was great.

    I have had time this summer to really create a sacred home and work environment, and that has become really important to me.

    Great post.

    Only one problem…all of your awesome links within this post make me feel a teensy bit..splattered.
    Can’t wait to read them all….eventually.


    Sylvia C.

  • Amy

    These past few weeks have been very splatter filled. Your 10 Cleaning Solutions are quite timely (as is the whole series on splatter.) I will try to prioritize my to-do list. I usually write one each night and it always includes things that I probably won’t get done. I also like the “not to do” list. Great idea! Finally, as others have mentioned, #7 segment intend is truly beneficial. For a few weeks I would meditate for a few minutes before starting work. Then I got away from it. It really did center me for the day. Even just a few breaths throughout the day can be helpful.

    Thanks again Christine for sharing your wonderful insights.

  • Christine Kane

    thanks jeanne! i have a few of eric’s books, too. he’s great…

    you go claire!

    hi kathy, i’ve had so many emails from people thanking me for recommending that book. it makes me happy to pass these things on! hey – mickey and i will go to italy with you!

    hi dawn, and thanks. that’s a really wise observation. i’ve done similar things with aspects of my music career. rather than taking all the time to keep up with areas i’m no longer interested in — i just had to leave them behind. it helps!

  • Dawn

    All of these were wonderful – all. #8 is a really smart one. Back when I thought I was going to branch off into website design, I was subscribed to all these html and design newsletters. When I went in a completely different direction, I unsubscribed from all those newsletters. Even though I really enjoyed (and still do) website design, I didn’t need the time or energy drain. Know what you want and bring everything into your life that fits.

    Thanks, Christine, for putting this (and the other 9) out there for us!

  • Kathy

    “Eat Pray Love.” Those are the things I am going to focus on for awhile. And what a great book! I started it on the plane on the way over to London and can’t put it down….shutting out the rest of the attention splatter for a few hours has been lovely!! I’ve only been through the Italy part so far but yummy! It’s making me want to go back there …. soon. And I can’t wait for the plane ride home to get back into that splatter-free mode. The business trip in between is attention splatter-filled but bookended by some wonderfully focused hours. I’m working on segment intending too. That also is helping quell the attention splattering forces within. Thanks for hitting the nail on the head once again.

  • claire

    Create a NOT-TO-DO list ~ ha!

    Makes so much sense, why didn’t I think of it before…

    Thanks 🙂

  • Jeanne

    #7 is the one I’m working on right now. It fits right in with the book 10 Zen Seconds by Eric Maisel that I am working with now to try to stay centered without spending my whole life at it or lighting incense. Not that I don’t light incense now and then, but I’m not good at meditations that last more than about 10 seconds.

    His twelve “Zen” 10 seconds definitely help with the intention thing.

  • Christine Kane

    hiya aaron! yea – splat and splatter are funny words for some reason. they say so much. thanks for the note!

  • Today is that Day

    I don’t know why, but every time you use the word “splatter” in a sentence, it makes me smile! 🙂

    Maybe it’s because I feel so splattered and that word describes the way I feel so well!

    At any rate, as entertained as I am by all of this, I must also say that this is top quality advice for cleaning up the splatter. Thanks, Christine!

    – Aaron

  • Christine Kane

    hi elaine, thanks for the note! yes, the concept of segment intending has been a good one for me too. (and the word “moodling” was coined by brenda Ueland – who wrote the book “if you want to write” back in the 30’s. i’m pretty sure she made it up, but who knows? i just love it.)

  • Elaine

    Hi Christine…Thanks for this post… I love these Top Ten Cleaning Solutions!! Number 7: Segment Intend is really changing my life at the moment; I am constantly amazed at the results I am getting. I also love the ‘moodling’concept (nice word to say too!)and now see how this is really necessary