The Attention Economy + A Podcast Appearance

March 29, 2023

Attention Economy

I am ~2/3 through Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing and the last chapter I read was about attention. I was struck with how important the very idea of attention is in basically sharing our experiences, our lives.

(I was also reminded of this selective attention video. Watch it if you haven’t done the exercise before!)

I tend to hyperfocus. I am fairly unaware of . . . stuff happening around me. This can be good (I can read even if there are distracting noises) or it can be bad (I can walk from the parking garage to an event without capturing ANY data about where my car is located if I don’t consciously think to do so).

I think the hyperfocus generally helps me at work. I have been working on trying to deepen my listening and one (random) thing that seems to help is to try VERY HARD to finish with each pt note before moving on to the next patients so that all of my attention can go on the patient I am seeing at any given moment. If I have an unfinished note it’s like I can’t totally let go of the last encounter and have this attention residue that bothers me in a subconscious way.

This is not always possible (I feel like I always have like 4 patients arrive simultaneously at 3 pm) but it is often possible.

The other point Odell makes (fairly subtly, I thought!) is the way that online . . . stuff is so dangerously powerful at pulling our attention away from real things onto a digital sphere that is almost an alternate reality – but one that isn’t physically real. Social media in particular is engineered so well and presented in such an enticing fashion that people almost involuntarily get sucked in.

Attention placed there is attention NOT placed elsewhere.

Anyway, it definitely made me think. Her book has also made me want to get out into nature and the world more — see more art, explore local outdoor areas, listen to more music. Yes, a book titled How to Do Nothing is inspiring me to do . . . more? I guess more of some things, less of others.

It is not a typical personal development book — it is much deeper and written in a more academic fashion — but I have to say I am getting a lot out of it.

I’m not naturally inclined to do nothing but I’m not sure Jenny is either.

Speaking of Attention . . .

I am featured on Lisa Woodruff’s Organize 365 Podcast today! I am a huge fan of Lisa’s work and the whole concept of Organize 365, and I am particularly inspired by her back-to-school journey she is pursuing (she is working towards a PhD!).


  • Reply Grateful Kae March 29, 2023 at 7:46 am

    This looks like a book I would love!! 🙂 Adding to list…

  • Reply CBS March 29, 2023 at 7:53 am

    I loved How to Do Nothing and need to get ahold of her new book – I keep hoping the airport will have it on their airport exclusives (paperbacks before the paperback release date). I think about it regularly as T and I are hard at work trying to befriend a group (a murder?) of crows we see on the pedestrian bridge each AM. We bring them a snack etc.

    I walk/cycle everywhere (never got a UK license) and sometimes I don’t remember any distinguishing details of my route, which worries me slightly. So I’ve been trying to mix up my route, and I’ve learned the names of the birds so I can spot them. The kingfisher is definitely the prize spot. There’s also an otter in our river but I’ve only seen him once, and if kids hadn’t stopped to watch him, I’d have missed it.

    Sometimes when I’m feeling scattered, I’ll look out our kitchen window, drink a cup of tea, and count how many species I see.

    T is super appreciative of the world – so I’m using that as inspiration. He notices everything and it forces me to notice as well, for stories to tell him. When I’m travelling, I’ll send a photo of a really beautiful tree, a good train engine, a funny coloured plane at the airport, etc.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger March 29, 2023 at 8:35 am

      Crows were a big plot point in Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness- what an interesting theme!

  • Reply gwinne March 29, 2023 at 8:40 am

    Yes, I suspect the title was a marketing decision? The subtitle is more accurately reflective of the book’s project. I am reading a new book called “Attention Span” by Gloria Mark that delves more deeply into the psychology of attention, with a particular focus on social media. Would be a good follow up to Odell. It’s also really clarified for me why the whole “work from home while kid was homeschooling” COVID moment was so taxing for me, beyond simply having more to do.

    • Reply Diane March 29, 2023 at 10:45 am

      I heard Mark on a couple podcasts lately talking about her book and I appreciated how research based and wide ranging her ideas are- she talks a lot about finding what works for one’s personality and how different people have different needs on the attention/distraction front. One of her points that I find helpful is the idea that positive distraction can actually be a good thing for some people- so I’ve been trying to curate my distractions more.

  • Reply Chelsea March 29, 2023 at 9:35 am

    Hah – your comment about attention rang so true for me. I can sit down to work and be extremely focused for hours… but I never – NEVER – know where my keys are, lol. Or my wallet. Or my phone.
    If my brain decides it’s not important, it just goes away. I’ve done that video exercise and I did not see the special thing. It was a total shock at the end when it was revealed.

    So excited to listen to your interview with Lisa. Of all the time management experts I follow (and there are many, lol), she’s the one I feel like I “connect” with the most.

  • Reply Kristie March 29, 2023 at 9:54 am

    I loved your podcast interview with Lisa! It’s always fun when two podcasters you follow join forces. I can relate to much of your journey in organizing and also aspire to plan more diligently.

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