Imagine your attention as money. Would you be paying it to everything around you so freely? To negative thoughts, or scrolling through social media? What are you investing it in?
Attention in the modern information-polluted world
Everything you pay attention to is your investment in your or maybe somebody else’s future. Think about how you spread your attention and focus throughout the day? Do you have control over what you focus on? Or do you find yourself dragged in all directions by different distractors and end up wasting time and not doing what you really want to or need to?
When you are scrolling through social media and get caught by some bright pictures and products you are investing in this product or person. You paying your attention helps them grow their business. In the modern information-rich world, there is a scarcity of attention. Everyone is fighting for your attention. Here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with this as long as you gain some real value from it and have a clear understanding of why you are investing your most precious resource specifically there.
Attention deficit - Do you have FOMO?
We find ourselves on a constant run in an attempt to catch up with a lot of things: social media posts and stories, messages, news, email newsletters, etc. A lot of people have the need to check their phones a few times per hour even if there are no notifications. This situation causes a more common issue which is the inability to stay focused on one thing and the tendency to jump from one thing to another all the time.
A lot of people have developed a so-called FOMO - Fear of Missing Out. This is a kind of anxiety due to constant striving to be up-to-date with everything you find important to follow not to miss out on an opportunity.
What is the downside of it? We start comparing ourselves to others and worrying whether we have as much fun as they do. One’s ability to slow down and rest or be dedicated to a certain idea, goal, or relationship is inhibited. The sea of information can also be overwhelming. It can lead you to struggles with decision-making since there are so many new opportunities popping up every second.
Is there any remedy for FOMO?
Yes, there’s and it doesn’t mean you have to stay away from all the things you keep track of. The game changer here is doing it by conscious choice rather than habit. For example, you follow certain people on social media or you choose to read certain blogs because they educate, motivate, and inspire you. You gain a lot of wisdom and insights from them. This means you invest your attention in self-growth. At the same time, you always check how much of your attention you are willing to invest in it to have a balance with other important things in life.
Attention and happiness - time spent on worry or negativity
The amount of time you invest in being happy and motivated vs being unhappy and dissatisfied is you paying ahead for certain things you get in the future. It can be either great results and achievements or reinforcing constant negativity loop and lack of progress.
Good news is that you can’t be focused on both sides at the same time, so every time you feel a certain way it’s your choice. It may be unconscious and in form of a habitual reaction, but this is still your CHOICE.
“What you focus on - GROWS.” - Robin Sharma
You got this! You are the one to choose, although it might look like you aren’t.
How to stop wasting and start investing your attention?
We all have our habitual ways of paying attention and focusing. We have developed them throughout the years. This doesn’t mean this is something we can’t change. This will take some practice and intention in order for it to become your new second nature.
Step 1 - start noticing how you choose where to pay your attention.
For example, if you are doing some important or interesting tasks you don’t allow any distractions or ignore all the distractions until you are finished. There’s also a chance that you keep distracting yourself from something you are intending to do and start doing something that would just keep you busy and make you feel good.
Step 2 - define what it is that keeps you procrastinating or wasting your time.
This could be grabbing something delicious to eat, scrolling through social media, chatting with someone, or reading some news. Sometimes we keep ourselves busy for the sake of being busy without any particular end goal in mind. At the end of the day, this is what makes us feel as if we are constantly busy but not getting anywhere.
Step 3 - start managing your focus and attention consciously
The tip I’m about to share is the one that helps a lot of my clients and it does help me to stay focused on what’s important and mindfully decide where I invest my attention at any given moment.
There are two simple questions that will become a habitual check-in for you with time:
Why am I doing what I’m doing now?
What value will it bring me or others?
To make sure you don’t forget the tip right after leaving this page, create a reminder with these questions on a sticky note and put it somewhere where you can see. Alternatively, there are some sticky notes apps for mobile which are really helpful and will appear as a screen saver for example.
Honing the skill of consciously investing your attention will put you ahead of the game and accelerate your growth and satisfaction with your everyday life.
P.S. Here's also a Concentration and Focus Skills Test for you to check how well you are in charge of your attention and focus.