State of Attention

Mar 27, 2020

As a newbie to the 100% virtual world (working from home) I have come to realize how hard it is to keep a routine much less a highly productive one.

Despite my 10 minute cell phone "viewing postponement" after waking up and my  "habit stacked" mornings remaining intact, I have felt the rest of my day difficult to manage.

Have you recently said any of these to yourself?

"I spent the whole day checking/addressing emails. It was one of the best days of my life!"


"I'm so glad I looked up the case count for total/new COVID-19 cases and read articles about it at least 10x times today.  It really helped my anxiety and allowed me to be highly productive".

In this time of stress and change, ROUTINE is more important than ever.

When we have poor attention management it decreases the quality of many things in our life.  It doesn't just make you less productive; it makes your relationships and conversations less meaningful.  Losing face to face meetings has unintended consequences.  It is not as easy to pay attention to others.

In the past week, I have incorporated the following changes which seem to help with routine and my state of attention:

1) Rather than firing off emails first thing in the day with newsletters/articles about the current drama to clients and/or colleagues, I decided I would call or text a client or colleague each morning asking the following:

"What can I do to make your day?" or  "What are you working through right now?"  The responses were amazing.  It allowed me to bring my attention to matters outside my own email and current events.

2) I limit my reading on the current crisis to 15 minutes per day (1x per day) - ideally at the end of the day.  Distraction fuels anxiety!  Set a news cut off time. Being informed helps us feel more prepared however it is important to set limits to media consumption.  This will allow you to put stressful news into perspective.

3) I've blocked off times of the day for "deep work" (i.e. projects). Not only does this require time to think through your ideas, you feel satisfied when you have completed some or all of this task.  Getting through emails gives us those shots of dopamine but it isn't meaningful work.

4) Airplane mode. Set a time or find time each day where you will put your phone in airplane mode.  You can still listen music, podcasts, etc. and it prevents email/phone interruptions.

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” — Anne Lamott

Hopefully by adding more structure to your day and putting your attention on others, you will find it easier to cope with this time of unpredictability.

Have a great weekend, Karl

+Quote: "The more thinly you slice your attention, the less focused you become. The less focused you become, the less progress you make. This is why you feel like you're not getting a lot done, even though you're "super busy." – Ryder Caroll

+Quote:  "Paying attention makes us happy. Seeking it doesn't."  - Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Karl Choltus

Deep thinking Canadian sharing thoughts created in the shower.