Attention Management is the New Time Management

We often accuse time of being the culprit for stealing life’s precious experiences, but it is the absence of attention that degrades relationships and robs life of meaning.  Time is an empty vessel without attention at the helm.

Parents under pressure are convinced that what they are withholding from their kids is time. Whether you’re a mother holding down a busy job or a separated dad who only gets 2 days each fortnight, it’s easy to make this mistake. And it’s an incredibly disempowering one. When your best efforts to find more time prove futile, the next step is to start compensating with the things you are able to provide: toys, games, clothes...

Leaders attempt to improve staff satisfaction by being around more, but their physical presence alone falls short.  Social events, reward schemes and motivational speakers won’t compensate for a distracted and inattentive boss.  You can’t delegate attention and you can’t buy it in.

What if you’ve been getting it wrong? What if the very thing your staff or loved ones most need and want, is not the one thing that is out of your reach, but the thing that is right at your fingertips? What if you are looking in all the wrong places, and overlooking the only thing that really matters. What if time doesn’t matter, but attention really, really does?

Think they’re the same thing?  You couldn’t be more wrong. A day spent together but disconnected is empty, even harmful. What lesson do people learn when their efforts are overlooked and their ideas are ignored?

Attention is not measured by seconds, minutes, hours or days, it is measured by fullness. A moment of clear full attention given generously without condition, will connect, nourish and transform. But as long as you hold on to time as your measure, these moments of full attention are delayed until “the time is right”.  You don’t need to wait until the weekend, an annual conference, a birthday, or other special event to give this most precious and life-changing gift.

 

Forget time management - let's start focusing on our attention management!

Captured! Are You a Victim of FOMM ? (Fear of Missing a Memory)

There are many special memories that come with being a parent.  The first time your baby walks, talks, laughs, goes to school.  In fact every “first” is something you want to capture and bottle forever. But a few years ago I learnt a valuable lesson about capturing memories.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Rushing into my daughter’s first kindergarten recital with similar excitement I had at a Robbie William’s concert decades before.  The performance began and within a few minutes I reached for my mobile phone and began filming.  I don’t know why I did it.  Perhaps I was following other parents, momentarily unsure of what to do.  Or maybe I had the FOMM (fear of missing a memory) and thought if I didn’t have it recorded, something might be lost. 

So I videoed my daughter and instantly knew I was now viewing a B grade version of what was really happening.  The experience had less colour, less life and all those things that come with viewing through a shrunk down lens.  And then the moment happened.  My little girl looked up at me, like they do for that reassuring nod of approval.  And all she saw was the back of my mobile phone.  I put the phone down and vowed to think twice before I did that again.   

And I’m so glad I did.  I laughed, I shed tears, we smiled together and I experienced everything that comes with being fully in that moment.  And I saw the gift of my attention in her performance.  She beamed with confidence and those off-key notes became even louder and prouder. 

It was the right decision for my daughter and I.  And let me be clear – I am not saying you should never video your kids.  But I believe one of the most important principles in parenting is this. Kids need your attention.  They crave it, right here and now in the present moment.  Time is not a substitute for attention.  Your child will look up at you 30 times times in a half hour sporting match searching for your expression of pride, your smile.  They thrive under the warm glow of your attention.

So consider this question, when you rush to pull out the mobile phone.  Are you capturing something, or are you captured?  Stolen away from what is really important.  Does being behind a mobile device disconnect you from what is going on?

We live in a different world today.  A rock concert is now a sea of back-lit cellphone faces. Performances used to attract applause, but now it’s muted because hands are filled with a device trying to capture the moment. At school concerts kids no longer see the faces of their proud parents, but instead it’s the back of the device as they snap a moment to share.  And we are slow to help people in need because of the instinct to grab your mobile phone and film incidents rather than jumping first to lend a hand.

Don’t miss the real memories thinking you can get them back later on a DVD.  Studies show that you not only miss being there in the moment but your memory of such events is affected when you are viewing them through a lens instead of experiencing them through your senses.  So trust your brain to be there. It will take great care of those precious memories if you let it.

 

Withholding Attention is Not a Neutral Act, It's a Destructive One

A Gallup survey reveals that an employee’s level of engagement drops significantly if the leader focuses on the employee’s weaknesses rather than their strengths.  But the more surprising finding was the dramatic doubling of disengagement when an employee is ignored.  Engagement, the extent to which an employee feels connected to their leader and their workplace, is almost impossible to achieve in the face of neglect. 

It appears in all aspects of life that any attention is better than no attention. Children are expert at ramping up their “attention-seeking behaviours” when they sense you are drifting. It starts with chatter, then questions, then repetition, then silliness, and finally, if nothing else works, naughtiness. That usually gets a response, and even harsh words or punishment are a price they’re prepared to pay to satisfy the need. You’ve finally bestowed upon them the much sought prize and a connection is made. This connection is crucial for learning, understanding, encouragement, motivation, and the security of belonging. Even if the experience that flows through the open stream of attention is negative, it’s better than receiving nothing at all.

In fact anyone who has been on the receiving end in any relationship (intimate, work or the service provider on the other end of the phone), will know the feeling that results from withheld attentionYou are not important.  What you have to say is not important.  This can only produce destructive results.

The stream of attention is a tangible pathway along which we walk towards each other, and it must be open for connection to be possible. Is your attention switched on to the needs of the people around you, or do you withhold your attention?

Attention can be withheld intentionally or unintentionally. See if you can identify the times when you unintentionally withhold attention from those around you. You may be lost in thought or captured by busyness. When your attention becomes cluttered and fragmented, you will not see the needs of those around you, and you will not notice the impact of your neglect.