We’ve all experienced it: sitting at your desk trying to complete an urgent task, but your mind can’t stop wandering. You try your best, but things aren’t moving. You’re motivated to complete it, but your concentration is shattered.
Today’s digital and continually-connected world has distractions just a click away.
Even in the quietest environments, diversion is literally at your fingertips in the form of news updates and Instagram notifications. We’ve reached a level where there are more ways to get distracted than to focus.
Similar to how the 20th-century consumer economy forced us to adopt nutritional diets, the 21st-century attention economy calls for an “Attention Diet” that feeds us with nourishing insights for optimal productivity.
This guide will take you through the intricacies of the Attention Diet and how it boosts your focus and concentration.
Understanding the Attention Diet
“Distractions are so pervasive in the digital age that we accept them as normal. But we can escape their grip and free our minds.” — Mark Manson.
The 21st century is an era where we struggle with information bombardment. Attention Diet is a concept coined by author Mark Manson focused on the amount of content, media, and socializing we do that eventually distracts us.
Its main objective is to identify highly nutritious data sources and relationships to build our lives around.
This approach prioritizes quality over quantity. It considers nutritional information as engaging, reliable, and long-form data.
On the other hand, junk information refers to unreliable, emotionally charged, and addictive data.
Finally, junk relationships are simply the groups or people with whom you share minimal connection or trust, leaving you feeling worse about yourself or insecure with the world.
But Why Does It Matter?
The Attention Diet helps us weed out all the unnecessary crap in the information overload to prioritize what’s important. We have many options to consider, and our attention spans are limited, so we can’t focus on anything for long.
Addictive clickbaity titles have caused the highest media consumption rates. Social media and smartphones are the cigarettes of the millennial generation.
The only way to grow in the chaotic world is to pay attention to less, which you can only achieve by implementing the Attention Diet.
How to Improve Your Focus Using the Attention Diet
Here are the primary steps of the Attention Diet.
Cleanse Your Social Media
Social media channels are filled with lots of bullshit content and are arguably among the greatest distractions of our times.
Based on the principles of the Attention Diet, you can limit diversions in the following ways:
Review your connections – Go through your follows or friends list while questioning whether the respective associations add value to your life or help you grow. Unfriend or unfollow anyone who doesn’t.
Unfollow news and media outlets – Media companies are becoming more short-sighted, inaccurate, and anemic, publishing content for clickbait rather than for utility and veracity.
They fight for your clicks and attention via social media, yet they can’t provide the necessary information. You can beat the distraction by opting out of this toxicity.
Uninstall pointless apps – After unfollowing and unfriending unnecessary users and pages, you’ll have cleaner, almost empty social media accounts.
Any social apps that feel pointless after the purge don’t deserve your attention; hence you should wipe them out.
Begin Consuming Long-Form Content
Long-form content like podcasts, books, documentaries, and long articles should be your bread and batter for entertainment and news. The key is that consuming them takes a long time.
Limiting yourself to this content type will call for more nuance, thought, and research. It also sharpens your attention span and will get you accustomed to handling topics for extended durations. Instead of falling prey to knee-jerk responses, you get the space to think.
Watching sports clips all day isn’t healthy. Rather, play a complete documentary about a successful player.
Instead of just playing a hit song on repeat, play the entire album. Instead of that dinky Android game, immerse yourself in a video game and think critically about its story and elements.
All these can help you stretch your attention span and sharpen your focus.
Find Accurate and Meaningful Information Sources
Focusing on meaningful and accurate data can help you beat the overload of useless data. Consider email newsletters and reputable bloggers and writers for most of your information needs.
Schedule Your Diversions
Just as you plan to eat X desserts or gulp Y bottles of beer weekly, the same applies to your attention.
Ensure you consciously choose your email, social media, and entertainment distractions and schedule them at specific times of the day to achieve their maximum purpose. You don’t have to refresh them every 30 seconds compulsively.
Everyone trashes social media’s addictive and disruptive nature while scrolling compulsively on their favorite social networks.
So, how do you stick to your schedule? This takes us to the next stage, the most essential part of the Attention Diet.
The 21st-century perspective of freedom is about committing to less instead of having more. The key is in setting boundaries.
Our selfish and flawed minds have a hard time pursuing what they want. But you can leverage multiple practical tools to train your concentration to focus on the right things. These tools are classified as phone app blockers, website blockers, and power outlet timers.
Implementing the Attention Diet begins with the devices you use. Effective site blockers can limit distractions from irrelevant websites, allowing you to focus more on the task at hand. Examples include:
- Cold Turkey (for macOS and Windows)
- Focus (for macOS)
- Freedom (for macOS and Windows)
- Self Control (for macOS)
Before blocking your entire phone or specific apps, open settings and disable most notifications. Disable vibration, sound, and the tiny red circles we unconsciously deem urgent.
You may also disable sound notifications unless you anticipate important phone calls. All these encourage compulsive clicking, significantly hurting your concentration span.
Afterward, you’ll now limit your app use. This is relatively easier for iPhone users as the manufacturer now includes features that block apps temporarily.
The Digital Wellbeing Android app can accomplish the same thing, but offers fewer options.
Third-party apps have vast customization options for app usage. Help Me Focus is a great example.
This is the best option if you’re planning to go hardcore. These timers are ideal for the kids as well.
You can now purchase power outlet timers that you can program to disconnect power at specific times.
With multiple of them in the house, you can customize when and how long your Wi-Fi router works, when the video game is available when to use your TV, and so on.
Ideally, you’ll be busy handling productive stuff during the day and may not need such control measures. But hey, you know what to do during desperate times.
Notably, implementing the Attention Diet has to be emotionally challenging. The easy and pleasing junk information hooks us ultimately, and the low-level addictions may seem to ease our daily insecurities and stress.
Withdrawing sucks and can trigger cravings and compulsions and expose uncomfortable feelings.
But keep pushing yourself to remain focused on the tasks and distractions that add value to your life.
A few challenges limit our focus and concentration. First, there’s a shitload of stuff requiring our attention, making it difficult to choose what to concentrate on and remain focused on.
Thus, the primary goal of the Attention Diet is to consciously limit the distractions you face. Just like you begin a nutritional diet by consuming less food, you’ll start the Attention Diet by reducing the information you consume.
The Attention Diet’s second objective is to identify wholesome relationships and data sources to build our lives around.
Quality matters because it’s a world with infinite data and opportunities where you don’t grow by doing or knowing more but by correctly focusing on less.
The above guidelines can help you succeed.