I guess it’s called irony.
After I wrote last week’s blog Where’s Your Attention?, I began noticing the power of attention in every situation, especially in my daily life. I decided to write a blog about the ways in which we scatter our precious attention all over the place so that we don’t give a full percentage of ourselves to our dreams and our goals.
So, then I wrote the blog, right? After all, here it is, right?
Well, sort of. I sat down to write it three days ago. I even said to my husband, “I’m gonna write my blog now!” I wrote a little. Then I decided to “check some email.” I got caught up in a mini-drama and opted to write emails for an entire afternoon, while occasionally jotting down some thoughts on this blog.
The next day, I sat down to write again. I made the same announcement to my husband. I wrote a little. And then I started surfing the internet (I called it research) and found lots of interesting (and mostly non-useful) things to read. Even if they had been useful, my mind was only half-present during this non-activity activity, so I didn’t absorb most of what I read!
These activities aren’t necessarily bad or wrong. Not at all. It’s just that we can spend entire days – entire weeks – immersed in non-activities like this and never accomplish a thing. We can fill every last moment with non-items so that our really important items never get done. We then tell everyone how busy we are. And when we do get things done, the sense of accomplishment is often lost because our attention was splattered on a million other things during the activity.
Do you see yourself in this picture? If so, you may have a case of what I call Attention Splatter.
Many of us – especially artists, creative types, and the self-employed – catch Attention Splatter. It’s insidious. We’re so good at multi-tasking and being available to all things at all times that we don’t even realize that we’re only half present to any given one of them. Our attention is splattered.
Now, let me be clear. The goal here is not about becoming some crazy hyper-focused, uber-effective, non-fun-having salesperson who scribbles things like “SEX WITH WIFE” in the 8pm slot of his Blackberry. (Lots of bliss for the wife, I’m sure.) Most likely, if you are a regular reader of my blog, you couldn’t be that kind of person even if you tried. Creative types are a little more multi-tasky in their energy. Creative types are creative because they can focus on so many perspectives and ideas at once. Celebrate this. This is a good thing. It potentially becomes a bad thing when it takes over and blocks your progress in the world.
The goal is to simply recognize this tendency, and to begin creating your days in such a way that you eliminate the opportunities for Attention Splatter to take over, especially when you do want to get things done. And the good news is that you can take practical action towards prevention.
I’ve compiled a brief list of ways that Attention Splatter has manifested in my own life, and might manifest in yours. I’m also writing about some of the solutions that have helped me build my attention and focus. Those posts will follow. Right now I am going to step back and be proud I made it this far in my writing without checking my email!