In the digital age of today, it is no surprise that at any given moment, there are many things vying for your attention. From dings, pings, and beeps to pop-ups, meeting invites, and ads that seem to know you, it is hard to know where to look or focus. With your focus spread so thin, attention management becomes a necessary topic to explore if you want to be a productive and effective individual.
If you watched The Social Dilemma, and use any of the various forms of social media and technology, you already know that your attention and your time is a product that is being monetized by digital platforms. “If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product,” the documentary said in a nutshell. Meaning, there are very intelligent designers that are being paid handsomely to create the digital experiences you use every day that are addictive.
And if it isn’t your phone asking for your attention, it is likely your employees, colleagues, kids, pets, or someone else asking for just a moment of your time. This challenge of getting distracted from priorities has grown for many during the pandemic, where the lines have blurred between work and home. Distractions add up and get in the way of uninterrupted time to think, work, or be with loved ones – if you are not careful, intentional, and protective of your attention.
Although it is true that some distractions are necessary and welcome, others are not. Do you know which is which, and do you have a handle on how to control them? The key is to distinguish between distractions that are avoidable and necessary, and design ways to minimize the distractions that are within your control and unwelcome – or at least batch them into a small window so they are not constantly taking up space in your mind and calendar.
Here’s a quick and non-scientific quiz to bring into your awareness just how much of your attention you currently have control over and how much of your time is on someone else’s agenda – so you can curate some guidelines where needed:
1. Do you receive notifications or check email or other apps during meetings, phone calls, or while working on important projects?
A. Yes, I multitask with everything
C. No, for the most part, I stay focused
2. Do you feel anxious when you can’t find your phone — even if it only went missing for one minute?
B. Sometimes a little
3. How much of your time do you spend getting distracted with things like email, TV, news, social media, video games, or other common distractions?
(This does not include sitting down to intentionally watch your favorite show, but would include getting lured into watching 4 episodes instead of that 1 – this question is targeted at distractions, where you lose track of your time.)
A. I have no idea, probably a lot
B. Between 15 minutes and an hour
C. Less than 15 minutes a day
4. How often do you check your phone in the first 15 minutes of your day?
A. Every day
5. When you check the breakdown of your “screen time,” over the last month, how did you feel about how much time you spent on apps like email, texts, social media, games, etc.?
A. Shocked, I can’t believe how much time I spend on my phone
B. A little surprised, but I was aware that I am on my phone too much
C. Neutral or even a little proud. I’ve got my screen time down to a minimum
6. Do people in your life tell you that you are on your phone, laptop, or screens too much?
A. All the time
B. Sometimes I hear this
C. No, I’m usually the one telling others this
7. How often do you have meals with loved ones while multi-tasking or on a device?
A. All the time
8. Do you check your phone whenever — and as soon as — you hear it beep, ding, or ring?
B. Sometimes, it’s hard not to.
C. No, at least not if I’m in the middle of something else.
9. Do you often find yourself checking something “real quick” on your phone, and then realizing half an hour has passed without noticing?
B. Sometimes and I hate when this happens
C. No (or not anymore)
10. Have you ever checked your phone thinking you felt it buzz, only to realize it didn’t?
A. Yes, I think I have a bad case of phantom vibration syndrome
B. This has definitely happened before
11. Do you usually have your phone within arm’s reach?
A. Oh yes, always in my hand, pocket, or on my nightstand
B. A lot of the time
C. Not unless I need it nearby
Answer Key & Debrief:
My hope is that this quiz has invited you to shine a light on your habits and distractions, and how you might want to consider being more intentional about your time and attention. As you consider this, what did you learn just by answering the questions?
While this is not a graded quiz, if your answers were mostly A’s or B’s, are there any changes you might like to make or boundaries you might like to set for yourself?
You probably want to take a look at your habits to see if you can gain more command of your attention from moment to moment, particularly if you find yourself often in a state of overwhelm or frenzy.
Review your responses to the above questions and see if you can identify some low-hanging fruit in terms of areas you can start with that might be easy for you to be more present in your work and life.
If you frequently feel scattered, unfocused, or unproductive, it might be time to take a look at your habits and relationship with distractions to see if you can take charge of how you spend your precious time and attention.
Review your responses to the above questions and see if you can identify some low-hanging fruit in terms of areas that might be easier to be more present in your work and life. >>You would also benefit from reading Part 2 of this article for specific and high-impact ideas on how to reduce the noise and be more intentional with your attention.
You seem like a pretty balanced person – in tune with what matters most to you and with your distractions in-check. Congratulations – that is quite an achievement in today’s digital age. Keep up the focused attention – the world needs more of it! You might still like to read Part 2 of this article for some additional ideas on how to be even more intentional with your attention.
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