Managing Your Attention

January 22, 2021

I think it ultimately comes down to awareness. I used to hear that early television had a lot of subliminal advertising in which they would flash products and suggestions at you in the course of one or two frames. I had a hard time believing that would influence people, but if it’s true that this existed then i’m sure it worked up until a point.

Advertising online likely functioned in a similar way – early on we knew there were ads but we didn’t realize how many of them are there, unless you visited a low-end news site that just plastered the page in ads.

I went into my Gmail app today and noticed the ads in the Promotions tab and it kind of dawned on me how online ads are reaching the saturation point. You would think adblockers could help but as we move to using dedicated apps they have no ability to intervene.

The point of this is that managing your attention is your responsibility. I recently deactivated Instagram to take a break from it over the holidays and I didn’t reactivate it in time. That means my account got deleted. I would like to go back to it but I have noticed a huge load lifted off my shoulders. Ironically, if I return to it, it might just be as a dummy account that is used only to advertise to people about my music and related projects.

And that brings up the conundrum of the whole situation – we resist ads and interruptions, but also understand that they are useful. Ultimately it makes the case for Attention as Power or Attention as Currency. There are days when we will submit and give up our attention to outside forces, and then there are days when we will ask for other people’s attention. And along the way you have to do your best to get your priorities straight and not fall victim to constant interruptions.

While it sounds complicated, I imagine it must be easy. What are some principles you can follow to maintain your attention on the projects that are most important to you?

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