Your attention is gold: This is how to use it wisely and effectively
To gain more flow, creativity and inspiration in everything you do
You most probably have been there. You have been drifting on social platforms for a part of the day, did your posts, waited for the responses, watched some video’s, worked on a photo for Insta, replied to some comments, redefined your strategies and at the end of the day are left with a unsatisfied feeling of having not added enough real value to the day, haven’t produced enough real stuff, haven’t fulfilled your to-do list and in general you feel that you suck.
The distribution of your focus and attention plays a major role in achieving anything. Social platforms suck out, diffuse and de-fragment your attention. They are built to do so. Their frictionless design makes you choose the way of the least resistance. Let me explain WHY the focus of your attention is the key to success, money and rising self-worth. The HOW to master this art comes from my own experience.
The definition of success
This blog is not entirely about success since the definition of making it in life is different for each and every soul on earth. Maybe I should redefine success first! For me,
Success is reaching a coherent state of mind through most of my days, the ability to focus on projects and get them done, how small or big they might be, and to find balance in general in my everyday life.
With general life I mean work, relationships, food consumption, mental and physical health etc. For me, Yoga and meditation are of huge help to reach that coherent state, to balance out the diffusion of modern day social landscape, that has become increasingly digital. I have found out for myself that the key or foundation to getting things done is maintaining that coherent mind state for a longer period of time. This is the foundation for not only being able to focus on a project but also enjoying the process of getting it done. There are 2 conditions to make this happen
- To create the conditions to maximize the coherent state of mind
- The ability to diverge attention-attacks. These attacks are anything that threatens the coherent state of focus and one-directional attention.
How to create the conditions for the coherent state of mind
I am a writer. I write blogs, guides, project proposals, white papers and texts for websites. I also have written and finished one complete novel. My biggest ‘attention achievement’ so far in my life. But lets take a step back from writing the novel and examine how to write a guide in a week for example. In fact, that’s my real life goal for next week! For you, it can be anything tangible that you need 5 workdays to produce. So the subject doesn’t matter, it’s all about developing the right state of mind. I invite you to fill in the specific task you want to dedicate yourself to, something you feel into and the prospect to have tangible proof as a result of your work makes you smile of joy. So that’s the start of it
- Joy & Inspiration. Everything starts with inspiration. Your mind might have told you that you really need to do something, but is there any underlying joy in doing so? If not, don't even start. You need to create that flow state, that inspirational wave that sparks your hidden and secret motor: Creativity. That’s already 70% of the work done!
- Set your goal, write it down, make it specific. In my example, it is pretty down forward and practical: A crypto for dummies guide of in between 40 and 50 pages, including the upload to Amazon as paperback and E-book. In fact, I can’t wait to get started. The recent growth of the interest in Bitcoin, decentralization and crypto sparks this continues inspiration in myself. I know I really can offer value in this revolution of money and the momentum is perfect to get this guide out there. So, what is it for you? Set your goal, check in with your inspiration and Joy when you Imagine the result, and make a small project plan for execution.
- Create rhythm, make rituals. In the outburst of my creativity, it really helps to create rituals and to get myself in a daily rhythm. I practice 30–45 min of Yoga every morning. it has become my personal ritual to get fully embodied at the start of each and every day. It gets things flowing and remember: we need flow to fully enjoy our creativity and productivity. What are these daily rituals for you? Go running, walk the dog, go shopping around the corner? Rituals are anchor points to reconnect with yourself, with deeper life force energy or vitality. So sport can be a good one, for example, maybe shopping not so good. The ritual is about changing energy and re-centring yourself. Eating a bag of choco-cookies is also a ritual but won’t have the same effect. It is more likely emotional eating that makes you feel bad at the end. I write more about getting resilient for this kind of attention attacks later.
- Get started. In the case of writing a complete novel, this is definitely one of the most difficult things to get over. To start! But writing the guide in one week is way more do-able. That’s why we choose the week goal here. It's just long enough to train your discipline and stamina, and not a mission that you seem to be enormous and unachievable. It also can be: painting your kitchen, do a week-long hiking trail in Norway, making a business plan, creating a website. As long as the result is tangible and it is not that too far fetched to finish it in 5 days. So, when the goal is clear, the intentions are set, the time is dedicated to the goal, all you need to do is start on Monday morning.
- Have discipline. I will come back to the attention attacks in the next paragraph. But you will likely attack yourself with attention drift offs. We humans have unique behavioural patterns. Why person X can't sit still and meditate for even 5 minutes, and person Y can do this for 1 hour easy? Whatever the pattern is, when you start focusing your attention, positive and negative behavioural patterns will rise up in your attention. The trick here is: become aware of them, and just…. let them go. Breathe through them. A good example is smoking. I am pretty sure that most people that smoke, when they would become completely conscious about WHY they some, and WHEN, most of the smokers would let go of smoking. The underlying mechanism for smoking once brought into the light and transformed, would diminish the need for smoking, maybe completely. I respect the small group of cigar and cigarette smokers that enjoy that nicotine rush so much that they keep on smoking most of their lives and be really successful in anything they do and sometimes even reach high age. My father was one of them! I don't want to make anyone bad here, it is just for the sake of the example of a behavioural pattern that is addictive. In fact, almost all behavioral patterns are addictive patterns, also the emotional ones. When you have started your mission next Monday, thoughts may arise that you never going to make it, that you are not equipped well enough to finish the task, you might experience anxiety and even fear of failure etc… all patterns from the past. Life is one big episode to get aware of them and let these stories go. But that's another story. You will need discipline though to feel into those patterns, examine them, and when possible, let them go when they no longer serve you.
- Reward yourself. This one very much speaks for itself but is also overlooked by many. You can set your daily goals, and when you meet them, reward yourself. So my daily goal is writing 10 pages (When I want to be the guide 50 pages written in 5 executive days). By the way, my ‘working’ day can be 4 hours. With writing, When I am in the flow, i can write 3000 words in 4 hours or less. When not in the flow, these 3000 words might take me 2 days. That’s why staying in the flow, for about anything, is so important. A reward for myself can be watching Netflix Black Mirror, but just max 2 episodes. Or going out for dinner with a friend. What is your reward?
The top 5 attention attackers
Here are the top 5 of causes that take away your attention, and may undermine your focus, inspiration, coherent mind and tangible results.
- Social media platforms have been by far the biggest attackers of coherent mind state, flow state and staying in focus. In general, using your attention wisely and productively. Why ? because they are designed to suck out our attention. When you see this attention as pure energy, a light beam, directing this beam to a small screen for 3–4 hours a day, isn’t giving you any deeper fulfilment, inspiration or real life joy. The screen simply sucks out that fresh coherent energy and rewards you with short term dopamine rushes. But they are not enough to get anything done in real life. Unless you make your money by being present in social media. When you create daily videos, for example, have a news channel, and why not, are a blogger like me. Still, you will need to train yourself to focus on your craft. So nothing wrong essentially with the small screen, it has become a modern way of communication. But even inside that world, you will need all your ability to focus and concentrate, to get your work done.
- Addictive Behavioral patterns. I mentioned these above. What I want to add here is that we all have them, stronger or weaker. It is my firm believe that getting aware of these patterns is the key to more balance in your life, and attracting a life that you crave for, wish for and also deserve.
- Time management. Use your time well. It doesn’t matter if you need 2,4,6 or more hours a day to get your week goal done. It is about staying in flow, inspiration and joy. For me, time management is flow management, and in this article, I bring forward elements to ensure this flow to keep on flowing. It is not a scientific approach, it is written from mere personal experience. Some people have completely specialized in the flow state. Check out this great article about the flow state.
- People management. What i mean with this is, well, spreading your attention over friends, relatives, families and people that pop up in your life and ask for your attention. I believe that we people energetically all influence each other. When you just come out of meditation, and you enter a room with 5 friends having a meeting about some subject, you are far more able to track the amount of coherency that is going on. Do people have the ability to finish sentences, are contributors to the discussion really listening? How many people are watching their phones and how often? In other words: how much disturbance is in the room because the minds of the participants are disturbed, or just less focused? This all plays a role in the outcome.
I am training myself to lead circles, men groups. In these groups, we train undivided attention, also called “Presence”. We train the ability to give full attention to the person that asks attention. The rule is simple: when we can give this focus, attention and presence to ourselves, only then we can give it to others. A disturbed, un-focused mind creates brainwaves that will likely weaken the focused-ness of a person close to that mind. You always have the choice to leave that person (in a friendly way) like you can stop a telephone conversation. Minds need to express themselves, and in the process of doing so, they often need a lot of confirmation. When you have set your daily goal, you most likely need all of your focus and attention to make it work. You still have the freedom of choice to give that precious attention to a friend who calls with a problem, you would appreciate when that friend would do the same in reverse. What I try to do, by setting conditions to really produce and write, is to just be very conscious how much I use that attention for social time, chatting and listening to other peoples stories. I might cut it off, knowing that next week I have all the time in the world to attend to those needs. Or I shift the conversation to a moment in the day, like the evening, that I am more open to it. It is a completely different thing altogether when you work with people, but then, even more, you probably choose all the time how to spread your attention over your clients, and probably they are paying for your undivided attention.
- Self-management. All of the above is self-management. When you learn to optimize your attention, focus, flow and coherent state of mind, your life will improve rapidly. That is my believe and experience. You get more things done on flow, joy and inspiration, and the result in its turn give you more joy and inspiration and flow.. so a positive creation circle has been created. There are more elements that are important in creating full coherent attention like your personal bio-rhythm and the ability to say no.
Choose one thing daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly
Successful people most often master one quality, ability, talent, thing they do. I remember reading a quote from some Old Chinese Philosopher. Might have been Lao Tze. The quote is (according to my own free interpretation)
When you finish what you start, in ANYTHING, you will reach fulfillment, happiness and great success.
Think about it. ANYTHING you start, any smaller, medium or bigger project: you completely dedicate yourself to finishing it. This means you work ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY at that ONE goal or project: UNTIL IT IS COMPLETELY finished.
This has great power. But you will still need all of your attention, focus and presence to make it work. When your attention is spread, for example over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, talking to your mom, the last bills you still need to pay, the noise of the TV in the corner, neighbours quarrelling over something etc.. you most likely get irritated and your attention gets scattered all over the place. One of the bigger problems for many people these times is this attention spread. Social media hasn’t made it easier for us. Their revenue models are based upon stealing our attention and time in fact in very clever and ingenious ways. For them, we are just a product and our attention equals revenue. So, even more reason to take back your attention and focus. On the long run, exactly this will make you get back your life, be successful, feel joy and inspiration on a daily basis, feel balance and coherence and finally the possibility to create a big piece of art out of your life when you keep on practising this over the years to come.