Saturday, April 11, 2015

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

Did you ever notice how many times in a day you jump to attention? The alarm buzzes in the morning, and you jump to attention. Your kids need breakfast or lunch or help finding socks, and you jump to attention. Your work calls to say "come earlier" or "come later" or "don't come at all," and you are at the ready, giving your full attention.

The tricky thing is, it's hard to give your real attention to all those things at once. And sometimes, you're so busy paying attention to one that you can't possibly do justice to the others. So, how do you decide what actually deserves your attention? Is it the work, or the socks? Or is it something else completely, something that may not buzz or beep or yell, but merits even more of you than any of the matters that keep you jumping?

One of the lessons I have learned, slowly, over the last few years of work limbo is the management of my attention. The number of people and tasks demanding my attention grows each day--I can't control that. What I can control, however, is how I react. I may jump out of bed each morning when the alarm buzzes, but I don't have to jump every time there's a hint of a work change, one that often turns out to be no more than a hint. I may not need to jump to attention for every missing sock, but I have become better at focusing my attention at home when it matters and not letting my attention stray to things that don't matter.

There will always be people and situations and tasks that will be screaming, "May I have your attention, please!" The key, as far as I can tell, is knowing when it's important to jump to attention, and when it's enough just to listen but keep our attention where it is. Have I got your attention? Good. Now it's your turn to decide where your attention really needs to be.

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