Advertising
Advertising

5 ways to reclaim some of your attention.

5 ways to reclaim some of your attention.
Attention

    A few weeks ago after realizing here just how many hands were in my attention wallet, I put at the top of my GTD projects list a new project: Reclaiming my attention. I suspect it’s going to be one of those long projects – there are so many people, companies, causes, information sources and things out there, all wanting slices of your attention until you have nothing for yourself, your work or your future.

    In some ways it’s kind of like all those friendly sounding companies and services out there : “Just let us charge your credit card automatically our tiny little fee each month and you’ll be happier, sexier, taller and even more attractive! Just click here and forget all about it.”

    If road to the poorhouse is paved with automatic debits, the road to a living hell of knowing you can get things done but you’re not is paved with attention robbers.

    I’m still feeling my way here, so what follows are something of a grab bag of solutions and quick fixes for reclaiming your attention. Your mileage may vary.

    Advertising

    Let Scoble do it. Robert Scoble is a really smart guy with a plan, a purpose, and the ability to churn through an ungodly amount of RSS feeds to find the stuff that’s going to matter re the Web, the software industry, and new tech stuff. So I’m going to let him do it for me and let the one feed he shares substitute for the 622 or whatever number he reads. (See 2nd graf of this post by Robert for details.) Robert, if you want $20 a year for this incredible attention reclaiming service you are providing, just let me know where to send the check – baby’s going to want new shoes! Anyone else have a Google Reader Shared Feed to share?

    Three for One. Here’s how it works:

    1. Make a mental list of the next 3 things you are going to do.
    2. Do nothing else but #1 until it’s done, you’ve pushed it as far as it can go right now, or someone screams in your ear the building is on fire. Concentrate on it. Turn off email, telephone, iTunes, IM, Skype, other programs, your browser and your cat if you can find an off pause switch and Just. Do. One. Thing. Until. You. Are. Done.
    3. Repeat for items 2 and 3. Then go back to step 1.

    The beauty of Three for One is you make a single decision – what the next three things you are going to do are – and then you do them. You make no more decisions, you tolerate no more distractions. You exert your will that you are going to do just these three things and (for the moment) to hell with everything else.

    Singletask. Okay, I brazenly stole the guts of this idea from this Lifehack.org post, but the fact remains that while multitasking may scale up so you can work on multiple projects over the course of a day, week or month, it sucks when you try to scale multitasking down to this hour, minute, or second. So all hail Singletasking – the long lost and newly found joy of just doing one thing at a time, well.

    Advertising

    Break your agreements. Not all your agreements, just these two you’ve been suckered into:

    • If you check email often you’ll get something nice. Liar! Fraud! Thief! The more I check email, the more crap gets poured in my eyes, the more decisions I have to make about what is and is not crap, the more people expect me to do, the more alluring opportunities get dangled in front of me when I can’t deal with the opportunities I already have and the more my head hurts.I defy anyone to process email for two hours straight in the morning and get one damn thing worth doing done the rest of the day.

      Every single email you process is a decision you’ve wasted. You have a finite number of decisions you can make in a day before you’re brain turns to mush. Should you spend those decisions on your work, your life, your future? Or spend them like some hopeless loser sitting in front of a slot machine feeding it money at 2am in the morning? Your choice.

      I’ve decided to process email three times a day, never, ever before 9am and everything that isn’t from someone I know, something I expect or has a good subject line goes straight to the trash. The stuff that I don’t immediately trash will go into a folder called “@ End of Today” where at the end of the day I will actually process each email for reply, reference, waiting on or bump to @End of Week.

    • We’re notifications, and we’re here to help. Email notifications, network notifications, patch notifications, too-many icons on your desktop notifications, too little disk space notifications, and on and on and on. My PCs over the years have become the single biggest source of interruptions in my life. Everything from marketing ploys crossdressed as Important Notifications! (“Crap software has a new version, would you like to interrupt your pitiful workflow or actually use the software and maybe lose everything you work on?”) to Windows OneCare everything is fine, but we thought we’d interrupt you anyway notifications.A never ending stream of happy friendly balloons in the lower right hand corner of your screen, breaking your concentration. If my PC were a coworker sitting next to me, I would have long ago put a bullet through that sucker’s head because he won’t SHUT UP!

      This from Microsoft’s Vista User Experience Guide, the official word for programmers: “A notification informs users of events that are unrelated to the current user activity through a balloon briefly displayed from an icon in the notification area. The notification could result from a user action or significant system event, or could offer potentially useful information from Microsoft Windows or an application.

      The information in a notification is useful and relevant, but never critical. Consequently, notifications don’t require immediate user action and users can freely ignore them.” (emphasis in the original).

      Yeah, right.

      While I can turn off Security Center notifications, low disk space notifications, maybe all notifications (Warning – use these at your own risk!), I hope some enterprising developer comes up with an application that just takes all these damn notifications and logs them so I can at my leisure review them. If that microISV’s application applied some basic rules so I have to use even less attention on it, so much the better.

      Oh, and don’t you Mac/Linux people get too smug – I see there’s a Software Update on my new MacBook Pro that’s grabbed my attention once already and two programs have reported they really want to update themselves before I’ve even had a chance to use them. It’s a slippery slope there and you won’t enjoy the slide down here where the rest of us Windows users are.

    More on the battle to reclaim my attention and incidentally a productive life next week.

    Bob Walsh sells MasterList Professional, a Windows task management and writes, codes, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

    More by this author

    I want, I learn, I do, I get Getting Attention by doing a Good thing I want my attention back 5 ways to reclaim some of your attention. Surprise!

    Trending in Featured

    1 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It) 2 50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time 3 8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener 4 The Art of Humble Confidence 5 8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

    Read Next