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Attention

I don’t have the attention.

If you were to see someone throwing money away, like the Joker in The Dark Knight, well, we’d call that person crazy. Money has value, and wasting it so clearly is agreeably crazy. And yet, daily, ourselves and others throw away something far more valuable every day: Attention.

While we certainly undervalue time–we often fail to think of the person who wastes time as crazy, realize time is a finite resource and that while the amount of time we get is uncertain, we know it’s limited because we can’t make any more of it when it runs out.

Time and attention aren’t the same thing. They’re barely related. And the shortness of time is incomparable to the shortness of attention.

Short as it may be, we often do have the time. It’s not that hard to squeeze in some extra time for someone or something.

What we don’t have – and what we can’t squeeze in – is more attention. Attention is a far more limited resource than time. You may have eight hours a day for work, but we all probably only have a few hours a day for attention.

Attention is a gift.

We give value to things by giving them our attention. What’s focal is causal. What happens when we’re not in control of our attention?

Interruption is assault

There is violence in interruption. Interruption cuts into the guts of our attention–just as if we were slapped or shoved, we are forced to defend ourselves from the current onslaught and from anticipated onslaughts in the future.

Interruption is arrogance masquerading as efficiency; as it shamelessly massacres efficiency. It stops the thinking of one person in favor of another. It is the politics of the aggressive laying waste to the brilliance of the respectful.

Interruption is a statement that the other person does not matter as much as we do.

As I said in meetings,

A meeting often interrupts work—work designed to create value—and therefore needlessly stops value creation, often for negligent reasons.

Reframed, a meeting is an assault on our attention. Here’s a few more commonplace things in work-life that are an assault on our attention:

  • meetings
  • chats
  • phone calls
  • ASAP

Advertising, as stereotypically seen, is an assault on our attention. Screens everywhere are an assault on our attention.

To me, being around other people is an assault on my attention. I can’t focus when other people are around me. Even if it’s “quiet,” the presence of others violently tears my attention to shreds.

Managing a team is about managing attention. Managing a remote team with asynchronous over real-time preserves attention for what matters.

Joker burning a pile of cash

I don’t have the attention for anything else.


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