How do you go from making complicated multi-million dollar project decisions to seeing value in paying the bills? That was the question I was pondering in a small conference room at work. It was a relevant question about the contrast between work and everything else. Creating a singular focus around work is such a tempting approach and it’s one that we all struggle with. This is completely normal and certainly understandable . The behavior has been modeled for us by those who have come before us and it’s usually our main focus that is paying the bills. The information overload work creates the real problem. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. Herbert Simon’s quote outlines the answer to the original question.
A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention
Attention seems to be a hot commodity these days. Go stand in line somewhere and wait 20 seconds, your neck will be craning downward and your arm will be positioned at the most comfortable angle to hold your phone while you swipe away at something on your phone. Don’t worry, its not just you, there is a war on our attention. The quickest way to fool someone into thinking we are being productive is to eat up their attention. Your life will go by faster and you won’t know why. It’s not just your phone either, its your work, it’s the meaningless minutia you spend your time on. I’m actually impressed you stuck around long enough to read this far, because most who started this article didn’t.
My struggle has been centered on the gap between my year long goals and my 12 week goals. I’m trying to take the goals for the year and compartmentalize them into 12 week goals that I can drive weekly action to. What I’m finding is that there it’s really hard to do. I’m having trouble because I won’t let myself have more than 3 large goals for a 12 week period. The specifics and attention of those goals is what will make me successful. We’ve all become conditioned to a mind like a fluttering butterfly, constantly flying to whatever stimulus attracts our attention at the moment. It’s why we haven’t lost that weight, why we haven’t started that meaningful but involved project, and why we look down at our phones every chance we get.
What motivates your attention
I read a lot of Seth Godin. He writes an enchanting blog that has a lot of meaning packed into a little content. He recently wrote a blurb on motivation.
“What if each of us were motivated by curiosity instead? Or generosity? Perhaps we could learn to see possibility instead of risk. What if we took and finished online classes because we could, not because there are assignments, tests and a certificate?
I see this firsthand with the shift students in my courses go through. At first, there’s an awkward pause when people realize that there are no tests. Without tests, it seems, it’s easier to focus on more pressing urgencies at home or at work. But then, postures begin to change. People realize that a different kind of motivation might lead to a different sort of outcome.
The choice of motivation is a fork in the road. It not only determines what we do and how we do it, but it drives marketers to decide what they make and how they’ll sell it. It changes the way school boards and regents design courses. It changes the story we tell ourselves.”
We need to change the story we tell ourselves and find what motivates our attention. I’m doing this as we speak by working in the church office instead of at my desk. I’m going to change my daily routines where I’m stuck to try and find this way out. Of the 3, 12 week goals I’m going to set, they will be spread across health, wealth, and relationships. I might not even have a goal centered on the job I go to every day. When we define our own story, our attention focuses on what really matters. It’s then we’ll change the world.