February 4, 2013

Paying Attention

Paying Attention

“It was true: the entire ball game was what you gave attention to vs. what you willed yourself to not.” -David Foster Wallace

There are many things on the typical daily list of tasks and appointments that can be ignored or mindlessly plodded through. For best results, don’t just make a to-do list; make a to-stop-doing list. I wrote about to-stop-doing lists in the original AONC book.

Here’s how it works:

Your to-stop-doing list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of things you simply don’t want to do anymore. Think about the tasks that drain your energy without contributing to anything worthwhile.

There will always be tasks that drain your energy for outcomes you believe in—it takes a lot of energy to be a social worker, for example—but the to-stop-doing list is for tasks that bring you down without giving you joy or helping anyone else. Try to come up with at least 3-5 things you currently do that drain your time and keep your focus away from more important tasks.

There is a lot of power in being willing to walk away. No one can hold power over you as long as you’re willing to walk away.

But That’s Only the First Part

What about when you find what matters? When you’ve eliminated the unnecessary traffic lights of your life, that’s when you can home in on the important things.

When you find the important things, you do everything within your power to guard and protect them. You devote your attention to them.

When you get off track, just remember: think about what truly deserves your attention. Choose carefully.

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Image: Jonny