Help…My Attention is Dead!

I had a great conversation with Merlin Mann, Thomas Vander Wal, and Fred Oliviera today about our collective lack of attention. Most of us had relatively sophisticated ways of dealing with it, from outright getting on the wagon and shutting off the feed firehose completely to tweaking our software to only allow access at certain […]

I had a great conversation with Merlin Mann, Thomas Vander Wal, and Fred Oliviera today about our collective lack of attention. Most of us had relatively sophisticated ways of dealing with it, from outright getting on the wagon and shutting off the feed firehose completely to tweaking our software to only allow access at certain times. Interestingly, one of the things that we all did was to set our email readers to only fetch mail about once per hour.

Most discussions I’ve had lately are about this lack of attention. It’s getting to the point where people are going on “content diets” to lose the drinking-from-a-firehose feeling, just like they go on food diets to lose weight.

My problem is not email, not spam, not chat. It’s reading feeds. I’m simply overwhelmed. I’ve gotten to the point where I skim for only those things that meet the following criteria:

  • Big, new idea
  • An idea that immediately builds on one I’m already comfortable with

If an idea doesn’t meet these criteria, then I filter it out. I simply can’t read those longer, thoughtful posts by people I’m not familiar with. And even those people who I know and are familiar with get filtered out if I can’t see value in the headline or first sentence. The downside to this is that I have less time for thoughtful repose, and less time to really consider some of the more subtle points someone is making. I went on vacation recently and I read two whole books (books are a paper medium on which words are printed in pages and bound by cloth covered cardboard), and loved every minute of it.

So I’m interested in hearing about your attention problems? Got any good or interesting tips for dealing with it?

Published: January 26th, 2006

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