How you carefully manage your attention

The book 'Attention' by Gloria Mark got me thinking about how attention works and how to stay focused. However, the book lacks clear tips, which is why I have compiled some recommendations myself.
Robert Roose
Door Robert Roose

How you carefully manage your attention

Avoid Social Media

Social Media consumes a significant amount of time for many people without them being aware of it. As you use Social Media platforms like X, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram more, you feed the algorithm to make it more attractive for you to stay glued. The longer you linger, the more advertisements you're presented with. Mark writes:

"Facebook likes are also a good predictor of someone's IQ, drug use, age, and political persuasion. In fact, after three hundred likes, the algorithm knows more about your personality than your own partner."

Be aware of this when using social media. And if you want to do yourself a favor, quit it altogether. Because if you're honest, what exactly are you getting out of it? Usually, after a doomscrolling session, you don't feel much better. And the chance of missing that one interesting post or connection is minimal.

Stop Reading the News

This advice is in line with the previous one, and I have previously written a blog about it. News is designed to make you watch, read, or listen longer. For the same reason Social Media does: so they can expose you to more advertisements. Don't think that reading the news makes you smarter or better, but see it for what it is: entertainment.

Don't Let Yourself Be Tracked

Make sure the algorithm doesn't get you. Use an open-source browser like Firefox and install an ad blocker like AdBlocker Ultimate. Don't rely on Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. These two are out to sell your data because it's part of their business model.

Firefox is also one of the few browsers that doesn't use the so-called webkit, developed by Google. If Google decides that ad blockers can't be used in webkit (because it means less ad revenue for Google), then it might also stop working in Microsoft Edge or Brave, both based on webkit.

And if you really want to be safe, use a VPN service like Proton VPN. This ensures that the algorithms can't use your IP address to target you. Additionally, Proton VPN offers the Nethsield option, which allows you to block trackers, advertisements, and malware.

Pay for Online Services

Isn't it strange that you can use services like Hotmail and Gmail for free? Yes, it's very strange because offering those services costs Google and Microsoft a lot of money. So how do they make money? By passing on your data and showing you ads.

Therefore, make sure you pay for online services. Especially when it comes to things you use daily like email. I've been a satisfied customer of Proton Mail for a long time now.

Try to scrutinize every online service you use. For which service do you not pay but where it doesn't seem right?

Focus on One Task

Try to focus on one task and avoid multitasking. As Mark points out in her book:

"You would think that multitasking makes you more productive. But research has shown the opposite for years: your productivity actually decreases when you do multiple things at once."

This is because different tasks require different mindsets. Constantly switching between tasks means you have to get back into the right mindset each time, which takes a lot of time. Close tabs and/or applications you don't need for your current task. Finish one task completely before moving on to the next one. Or take a short break between the two tasks to recharge your attention resources.

Avoid Open Loops

If unfinished tasks keep nagging at you, it consumes a lot of energy. Therefore, create a to-do list (I use Todoist) and note down all the tasks you still need to do. This way, you keep an overview and relieve your brain because you don't have to remember all the tasks.

Don't Get Disturbed

Turn off your notifications. All notifications! Your WhatsApp, your email, your shopping apps. You decide when you want to receive this information, not your phone or computer. Every time your phone starts beeping or vibrating, your attention shifts to your device. This causes you to lose focus on your task.

If you find yourself still checking your phone every time, even though your notifications are turned off, make it difficult for yourself and put your phone in another room or turn it off. Restarting it every time takes time and forms a barrier, making you wonder if you really want to do it.

Taking a Break? Go for a Walk

Mark indicates that it's necessary to take a break occasionally to recharge your attention resources. But there are breaks and there are breaks. Therefore, make sure you take a quality break and go for a walk. Away from your computer, without a headset with a podcast in your ears, just walking. I've previously written a blog about the benefits of walking.

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