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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Distractions & Tryst With Attention

Modern humans may not be able to get rid of the constant interruptions in our day, but can manage them better. In general, people are the exception handlers in all automated workflows, and intelligence and judgment won’t be automated anytime soon. The challenge may be in finding how to connect people and services. Managing that scarcest of resources, attention, is a huge challenge. It’s vital that people choose which channel to be interrupted on.But stuffing the same messages down one channel or another doesn’t alter the nature of those messages, or reduce the total effort required to process them.Linda Stonesays, for almost two decades, continuous partial attention has been a way of life to cope and keep up with responsibilities and relationships. our attention bandwidth is strecthed to upper limits. We think that if tech has a lot of bandwidth then we do, too. With continuous partial attention we keep the top level item in focus and scan the periphery in case something more important emerges. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network, we feel alive when we're connected. To be busy and to be connected is to be alive. We've been working to maximize opportunities and contacts in our life. So much social networking, so little time. Speed, agility, and connectivity at top of mind. Marketers humming that tune for two decades now. Now we're over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled. A consequence of email culture is that we don't make decisions: send emails around. We're shifting into a new cycle, new set of behaviours and motivations. Attention is dynamic, and there are sociocultural influences that push us to pay attention one way or another. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.

Organization expert David Allen, author of the classic Getting Things Done , points out, technology "has sped up our need to refocus, recalibrate, and reprioritize rapidly and not lose lots of details in the process." This is giving us attention deficit disorder! Solution amy lay in the term "life hacking"? meaning coming up with ways to reclaim your time. Danny O'Brien,set about studying their secrets. O'Brien allowed himself to be interrupted from his job as an activism coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation long enough to share his favorite strategies:

- Check E-mail hourly. "There's almost no E-mail that must be answered within 5 minutes."
- Track time. To stay on track while looking things up online, O'Brien wrote "Webelodeon," a program that "bugs you every few minutes to ask whether you should really still be surfing the Web."
- Use simple apps . Instead of investing time and money in an elaborate personal organizational system, keep contact info for your clan in a single word processing file.
- (Re)consider paper. Some of the best computer programmers keep stacks of index cards (known in techie circles as the hipster's PDA) for phone numbers and to figure out a program's structure.

- Think little. Don't try to become a "superhero of organization.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"