Slow and Steady Wins The Race
On how we can become better at controlling our attention and external disruptions
Apologies for being late with this newsletter. During the past few weeks and months my ADHD has become harder to manage and I’m having a difficult time with my projects. It’s a very challenging mental condition that demands daily treatment and work. But since attention has become a challenge for many people, maybe not as medically diagnosed neurodiversity but as an effect of digital technologies, this week I’m writing about general attention and challenges.
Attention, together with time and creative energy is limited in everyone’s life. Everything else on earth exists in abundance and if you have some you can make more money, grow more food, learn more skills, build more strength et cetera.
Let’s think about attention as a car with a full gas tank in the morning. If you spend the day exceeding speed limits, changing lanes often, and accelerate / decelerate hard, then you’re going to very quickly deplete your gas and wear down the engine.
Your limited cognitive resources works them same way. You start out the morning with a full tank that you then consume during the day. If you are mindful and aware of how you spend your attention, you’ll be more productive and less stressed.
What I’ve learned about attention is really how you switch in-between tasks and how you manage multi-tasking that will have the biggest positive everyday impact. Avoiding external disruptions will also extend your cognitive resources.
The trick is to find a healthy balance between deep focus and relaxation during the day to optimize productivity and minimize stress. When in deep focus we spend more cognitive resources and when we relax we spend less.
But there are also opportunities to replenish our cognitive resources during the day by going for a walk, doing a workout, taking a nappuccino (coffee before the nap), meet friends, meditate, browse the Internet or check out social media (if time boxed).
The important thing is that we learn to control our focus and the disruptions. If we constantly respond to external stimuli our productivity goes down and stress up. But if we self-disrupt when a task is finished, it becomes a healthy way of turning off.
To multi-task has become aspirational, and while some “supertaskers” might be effective multi-taskers, most of us aren’t. The switching cost we pay when jumping in-between projects is just too high and deplete our cognitive resources too quickly.
Like in the story about the hare and the tortoise, slow and steady really wins the daily race. By only focusing on what matters most and relaxing in-between, we can fight the epidemic of external disruptions and new attention traps, and live better lives.
Here are a few tips on how to improve your attention: