The Value of Attention: Why We Should Stop Multitasking and Choose Quality over Quantity
In today’s fast-paced world, we are bombarded with endless distractions that compete for our attention. Our smartphones, social media feeds, and never-ending to-do lists all vie for our focus, making it difficult to give anything our undivided attention. However, in his recent article “Attention and Sex,” author Scott Berkun argues that the way we spend our attention determines the value of what we pay attention to.
Misguided attention, Berkun explains, can rob potentially intimate experiences of their depth and quality. Activities like playing sports, engaging in conversation, and having non-casual sex require our full attention if we want to fully engage with the experience. Splitting our attention between these activities and other distractions, like checking our phones or browsing the internet, will water down the intimacy and satisfaction we can derive from them.
It’s like watering a flower: if we only give it a small amount of attention, it will not grow and thrive to its fullest potential. Similarly, intimate experiences can only flourish when we give them the time and attention they deserve. When we treat them with split attention, they become less fulfilling, less rewarding, and less memorable.
This principle applies to everything, from relationships to talents to experiences. In our quest for efficiency and productivity, we often resort to multitasking, hoping to accomplish more in less time. But as Berkun points out, this approach can backfire, leading us to miss out on the true value of what we’re doing.
Fast food (and sex), Berkun notes, can be fun and enjoyable, but they are unlikely to be fulfilling if that’s all we have. They work best as counterpoints to deeper, slower, more intimate experiences that require our full attention. By spreading our attention thin across too many things, we end up with a shallow, unsatisfying existence.
The solution, as Berkun suggests, is to reclaim our attention by being more selective about what we give it to. We need to be mindful of our attentional habits and consciously choose to focus on what really matters. This means saying no to distractions and interruptions that lack value, and prioritizing experiences that require our full attention.
In practical terms, this might mean setting boundaries around our use of technology, such as turning off notifications or scheduling designated times for checking email and social media. It might mean setting aside time for focused work or play, without the constant interruption of outside distractions. And it might mean learning to be present and attentive in our daily interactions with others, rather than letting our minds wander to other tasks or worries.
By giving our attention the time and space to grow, we can cultivate more meaningful, fulfilling experiences that bring us joy, satisfaction, and a greater sense of meaning in life. We can build deeper relationships, develop our talents, and explore the world in a more profound and enriching way.
The slow food movement, which emphasizes quality over quantity in the realm of food, offers a fitting analogy for the value of attention. Just as slow food takes time and care to prepare, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients and traditional cooking methods, so too does meaningful, intimate experience require our full attention and investment. And just as slow food offers a richer, more satisfying culinary experience than fast food, so too will slowing down and focusing our attention offer a more fulfilling, rewarding, and satisfying way of life.
In conclusion, the value of attention lies not in its quantity, but in its quality. By focusing our attention on what truly matters, we can create more meaningful, fulfilling experiences that enrich our lives and bring us a greater sense of joy and purpose. So let’s stop spreading our attention thin and start giving it the care and attention it deserves.