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I want my attention back

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I want my attention back
fail safe

    A long time ago, I had most of my attention. I could spend it on work, on friends and family, on a sunset after a perfect day at a beautiful beach, on what I want to do, on myself. When it came time to produce an application, work with a client or take a class I could rest assured I had enough attention in the bank to cover it.

    Back in those pre-Internet days, I had control over my attention spending without even thinking about it. Yes, I’d watch a few shows (Miami Vice was great), but I could count who and what had dibs on my attention account easily.

    Then the Internet happened.

    It started oh so slowly – oh look, someone has sent me an email, cool! Then the World Wide Web and one page of What’s New on Netscape’s Home Page. I remember thinking in a very nice hotel in Sydney wouldn’t it be great if they had a “Web Site” and wouldn’t it be even better if people could post their opinions about hotels they had stayed in on the World Wide Web. Then things started to move faster.

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    And faster.

    And still faster.

    And now I whirl around, connecting via email, skype, twitter, blogging, social networks, IM, forums to more people than I can possibly remember. [one minute while I check email-done,where was I?] Getting more news about things I can possibly read – and more news about things I really care about than I can possibly read. [another email – sorry.]

    And when I actually have time to work, what is most of what I do now? I go find information on the net – ten, a hundred, ten thousand fire hoses of information all at my beck and call, all taking their little debit of my attention. So much so, I have to use a search engine to search my bookmarks for sites I have already found because I can’t remember them all, or find the one site I remember bookmarking amongst all the other bookmarked sites. More of my attention lost.

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    I could go on writing a paragraph on each of the ways my attention is being debited now, but just the nouns will do: email, voicemail, podcasts. Spam. 500 channel TV, 50,000 channel Internet TV, 50 million channel youtube and youtube wannabe TV. Spam. Utterly unimportant important updates, upgrades, notifications, security fixes, patches. Spam.

    My attention is being split, nibbled, multitasked, frittered away, seduced and outright stolen from me every day, all day long. Most of my time and most of my energy goes into making ten thousand decisions a day about what and who is going to get or not get my attention. The results?

    “Making choices led to reduced self-control (i.e., less physical stamina, task persistence in the face of failure, more procrastination, and less quality and quantity of arithmetic calculations)” Thats from a study by Dr. Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota.

    Sound like anyone you know?

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    Want to know why “Web 2.0” apps are cool? Fewer decisions hurt your head less.

    At this point in my posts I like to write a few bullet point suggestions as to how to solve the problem I just talked about. No can do today. I don’t know what the solution is – only I had better put it at the top of my to do, agenda and Getting Things Done process.

    I do know this – constantly deciding over and over and over what now is going to get my attention is draining my productivity as surely as thousand little cuts would drain my blood. And it’s just as serious.

    And it’s not just me. Every single person I know offline and on, every blogger, every podcaster, every programmer, every manager, every executive is bleeding out there productivity through a thousand cuts of their attention. We laugh about it, joke about it, try a million productivity hacks and techniques and we are still bleeding out.

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    Back in the last century, there was this great black and white movie called Fail Safe. A six buck part in a roomsize computer burns out and a Strategic Air Command wing of bombers nuke Moscow. (Me bad, we’d say now). The U.S. President sees only one way to avert all out nuclear war – nuke New York to balance the scales. All because a little computer part burned out and sent a command out for those planes to fly past their fail safe point – their point of no return.

    We are so far past our fail safe point of attention it’s not even close to funny.

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

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    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!

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

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

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    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.

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