How To Break Free From The Attention Economy

The attention economy seems to have run amok. Early on in the attention economy, media and other companies competed for people’s attention so they could promote products, or kept us busy so we could spend more time using their services. Nonetheless, consumers felt that they voluntarily paid attention to these platforms or services. The idea of ​​“stealing attention” only makes sense if a person owns the merchandise.

Even today, the media and other companies still vie for people’s attention, but it no longer seems like people are making a conscious choice to give it away. Rather, people are becoming more and more distracted. Not only is attention span decreasing; the focus of attention is largely beyond people’s own control. Passive consumption has become the norm and social media has become the screen through which we connect with the world. The “War for Attention” no longer takes place between media consumers and the media industry. It’s between different media companies now, and people are simply the territory to be conquered.

In his latest book, for example The Chaos Machine: The inside story of how social media is rewiring our minds and our world, Max Fisher describes the tactics that helped YouTube reach 1 billion views per day by 2016. Rather than providing the best available information for the search query, YouTube’s algorithm prioritizes videos that evoke people’s emotions by conveying a sense that the community they are part of – and therefore their own identity – was in jeopardy . The goal of YouTube is not to satisfy customers’ interests, but to increase the number of videos viewed. Emotionally draining viewers is simply the most effective way to get their attention.

The wildness of the attention economy has led to a decline in people’s ability to maintain strong relationships and engage in deep thought. Additionally, distraction and multitasking hamper both personal and business productivity. Despite the belief that it is possible to efficiently do two things at the same time, multitasking reduces productivity, causes stress and can ultimately lead to burnout. In a 2020 study, The Economist Intelligence Unit found that 28% of knowledge work hours in the United States are lost to distractions. That’s about 581 hours per knowledge worker per year. According to Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, 36% of Millennials/Gen Z say they spend 2 or more hours per workday on their smartphones for personal reasons. However, the costs are not only incurred through the use of social media at work. Employees are also distracted by other types of interruptions, whether personal or office-related.

In his new book The power of unwavering focus, Dandapani shows that it is possible to take back the power of how one spends one’s time. It offers a positive corrective to the attention economy paradigm as it transforms attention from a commodity over which we have lost control to a skill that we can develop and use for our own ends.

Through his teachings and practices, Dandapani shows his readers how to develop the skills of concentration and focus, thereby improving one’s productivity, mental health, and relationships. He also provides business leaders with tools to minimize distractions at work for the benefit of their employees. The concepts and definitions he uses are rooted in Hindu metaphysics and the teachings of his guru Gurudeva, but they can be appreciated by anyone interested in gaining more control over their life. Additionally, many of his explanations of how attention and concentration work are consistent with contemporary psychology.

One of the book’s best insights is that most people just don’t know how to focus because they were never taught. Assuming that the ability to focus is innate, like an “on and off” switch, is both inaccurate and dangerous. With guidance and practice, people can learn to increase both the intensity and duration of their focus. It also becomes easier to focus and requires less effort to do well. Additionally, once you understand the mechanics of concentration, you can teach others how to hone this skill. Dandapani’s book is proof of this.

The danger of thinking that focus is simply an intrinsic ability is that it causes children – and adults – to fail. Under what other circumstances do we assume that a person is simply able to do something, and do it well, without ever being taught how? Parents and teachers spend countless hours directing and coaching children to get better at reading, sports, and other activities. However, when children cannot concentrate after being asked to, they are seen as problematic. When adults have trouble concentrating, they are considered difficult to work with.

Another insight Dandapani shares is what he calls “The Law of Practice.” Similar to the idea attributed to W. Edwards Deming that “every system is perfectly designed to produce the results it produces,” the Dandapani Law states that “what you practice is what you become good at “. This law is a double-edged sword, since Dandapani calls a person’s preoccupation with distractions an exercise, just as he calls working on one’s attention an exercise. In other words, “We become good at what we practice even if what we practice is not good for us.”

According to the law of practice, to improve our focus, we not only need to think about how often we practice concentrating or maintaining our attention, we also need to think about how often we allow ourselves to be distracted. Developing these skills can therefore take longer and be more difficult than you think, as we are not working with a blank slate. We’ve already gotten pretty good at being distracted and need to unlearn those skills.

But the effort is worth it. As Dandapani writes, “The ability to concentrate is one of the greatest assets of mankind. It is at the core of all human success and aspiration, for the ability to focus helps a person achieve their goals in life.” For Dandapani, if one can hone one’s ability to maintain focus and keep that focus on what one wants in life, rather than what others want from them, happiness will be the by-product.

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