“I’m so poor I can’t even pay attention.”
Time is not money. Attention is money. Not just money, attention is life itself. Where you pay attention doesn’t just impact your bank account but the quality of life itself. With the colorful buzz of television, downpour of e-mail messages and endless stresses it is time to reclaim what has been stolen from you.
Thinking takes time and energy. So much it is often easier not to do it. Instead operating entirely on habits and reflexes so that critical issues go unexamined as you continue through the motions.
“Maybe some people don’t think, but I certainly do.”
Perhaps your right. Then again, you may be underestimating the amount of mental energy that is being sucked away. Ask yourself these questions:
- When is the last time I actually sat down for at least an hour to plan? I’m not talking about urgent tasks that require immediate attention such as your taxes or how to pay the bills. But actually sat down for an hour to write an plan about improving your health, finances or life?
- When is the last time I made a big change in my life? Not small reflexes to irritants, but big shifts from the result of a larger decision.
- When is the last time I could think, uninterrupted for an hour?
If you can’t normally answer with a recent date, chances are your attention is being stolen from you before you get a chance to spend it.
Tips for Regaining Your Focus
- Schedule an Appointment With Yourself - Your busy today, maybe tomorrow too. Too busy to spend a few hours planning out your life. Don’t worry, I understand. The best way to start is simply to set an appointment with yourself a few days from now when you have an opening. Just don’t put it off when the time comes.
- Cut Distractions - Distractions can be great. But the cable bill isn’t the only price you pay for them. Television, internet, music, e-mail and phones all add up to the price you pay in cognition. Give yourself a few media free hours a day to free up mental resources otherwise lost.
- Absorb Gap Time - Gaps in your schedule are usually filled with noise. The alternative is to use these little moments to think. Waiting in lines, time between buses or your coffee break can be turned into moments to ponder bigger issues.
- Stop - Is the pace sickening you? Stop. Just for a few hours or a day. The world won’t collapse. But don’t invest this time back in distractions, use it to really think deeply about the current course you are on. Do you like your job? Your relationship? Your pursuits and activities? Use time to make new decisions.
- The 1-Week Test – Projects, goals and desires use more attention than anything else. Normally this is attention well spent. But when you start work on a project it can be hard to stop. Even if you lack passion about it. Taking a one week departure can give you space to think about it and make the right decision.
- No Multitasking - If your doing anything even mildly difficult, stop multitasking. I never write articles with music, e-mail alerts and I write with my door locked when possible. Even if you can multitask, the price to your attention results in poor performance and wasted time.
- Cut Negative Thinking - Easier said than done. I know myself and when I’m in a funk, the last thing I want to do is stop. My solution is to engage myself to stop pointless bad moods from robbing my attentions. “No time to complain, there is work to be done,” it may sound a bit cold, but it has been an effective mantra I’ve used to combat wasteful thinking.
- Minimize – Simplify your life and get rid of the clutter. Strip away what isn’t important. Be ruthless about purifying your environment, time and focuses until you are able to focus. Your attention isn’t stolen in big chunks, it is nickled and dimed until you don’t have any left.
- Sensory Simplifying – Give yourself a few minutes of quiet darkness. You may want to stay sitting up if your worried about sleeping, or a low light if you plan to write. If your house is busy, hide out in the car for twenty minutes. When you cut the noise, it is amazing how much attention you can regain.
How to Capitalize on Regained Attention
Now that I’ve given some tips on how to reclaim your thinking power, how should you use it? Here are some ideas:
- Goals – Use the time to think about your long-term future. It usually takes me at least an hour or two of uninterrupted writing to plan and formulate big changes.
- Habits - What parts of your routine would you like to alter? Start exercising? Read more? Give up television? Try a new hobby? Most of life is habitual, so take control of it.
- Discomfort - What parts of your life would you like to change? Use the silence to find those chronic sources of pain and do something about them.
- Philosophy - Ask yourself the biggest questions of all. The only crime is to ignore them.
- 1 on 1 – Use the extra attention to focus entirely on what you are doing. This can be a relationship or a project. Just you and the subject, 100%.
- Tranquility – Use the silence to add some much needed peace into your psyche. Give yourself some room to diffuse stress.
- Order – Take the time to clear up the chaos you’ve been ignoring. Clutter around your house, confusing scheduling systems and disorganized files can be sorted with enough spare attention.
- Smell the Roses – Appreciate along the way. Remember life isn’t a destination and all those other truisms and cliches you ignore in a busy life.