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[VIC - 169] Manifesto on Attention

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September 25 · Issue #169 · View online
Jeremy Hurst
Manifesto on Attenion

Volume 1
There’s something quite ironic about Idenati (here’s a quick video and the website if you need some context). The idea is to bring simplicity and order to the experience inside the browser. With that comes improved efficiency and productivity. In other words, the more successful we become, the less time people spend online. Aka, the less time they spend interacting with our software. I think that’s a good thing. 
Following this thread, I’ve noticed something interesting in my own behavior. In the past couple years, an increasing proportion of my computing time happens on my computer, as opposed to my phone. That’s while the opposite is happening for many (most?) people.
This change has been an intentional one. I decided I wasn’t ok with the constant attack on my attention.
I bring this up because I often get the question, 
Why do you guys focus on the computer experience so much in an increasingly mobile world?
Well, herein lies the reason. I’m not sure there’s anything that can be done on mobile to save people’s attention. In fact, it’s not a technology problem. It’s a behavior problem. People are addicted. The limbic system is under assault.
To me, being mindful on mobile usually means putting the mobile down. Sure there’s the “screen time” app and smartwatches remind you to breathe and stand up every so often, but the tide hasn’t been stemmed. 
In the end, I guess you might say we design for ourselves first, and the world we want to see. When we’re out in the world, we try to be present. When it’s time to get things done, we usually take it to the computer. And since the computer has been neglected with the explosion of mobile, it feels like there’s work to be done to simplify the experience. 
Volume 2
I live in Long Island City (LIC), New York. Before the pandemic, my primary modes of transportation were the subway and Uber. Post pandemic, it has been the ferry.
From LIC to midtown east by subway is about 20 minutes (much of that time spent walking to and waiting for subways).
Depending on where you’re going, it’s perhaps 5 or 10 minutes by Uber, and occasionally much longer (bridge/tunnel traffic can be a drag).
The ferry ride from LIC to midtown east takes 2 minutes. 2 minutes!
The distance traveled over water is a straight line. It’s jagged by land due to man-made routes. But it took a global pandemic for me to consider a behavior change.
I point this out because our journey on the internet often takes jagged and out of the way paths, despite the lack of real-world constraints like roads to make it so.
When I visit Facebook, it’s for a specific reason. I’m either visiting Ads Manager or one of a few Facebook groups. But the default landing place is the Facebook News Feed. As such, it’s easy to get sucked in to a few minutes of scrolling. That’s by design.
For work, we often use HubSpot to create landing pages. The normal flow starts at hubspot.com to log in, then navigate to marketing, then to landing pages.
But why all the hops? The landing pages section in HubSpot and the Groups section in Facebook have specific web addresses.
In both cases, I’ve updated the “Link To Website” field in my relevant tiles to point to the places I actually want to go.
Straight lines every time!
I like eliminating extra hops. If it saves 10 minutes a day, for 5 days a week, over 4 weeks in the month, that’s over 3 hours back in your hands. Could that time reduce your stress or anxiety? Could it give you more time with your spouse or your kids?
Stretch it to a year, it’s almost 2 days. If you work for 40 years, that’s 80 days. I wonder who, at life’s conclusion, wouldn’t kill for another 80 days.
Volume 3
A few weeks ago, my wife was struggling to handle her workload. She was working late into the night almost every night, skipping meals during the day, and generally have a tough go of it.
It wasn’t so much the work that made her sad, but rather, she was most distressed about not having time to do the things she loves. She loves propagating plants. She loves arts and crafts with our niece. She loves all things wellness and nutrition.
One day I asked to see her calendar. It was wall-to-wall with multicolored blocks. After discussing those things she loves, I asked where those things were on the calendar. She said she didn’t have time.
So I proposed an inversion.
“What if, rather than relegating your most important things to "if I have time” status, you prioritize those things first?“
She decided to switch things up. Every morning, she now takes her coffee to the balcony for a meditation session, followed by a bit of time for reading a nutrition book. She now schedules arts and crafts time for the week ahead on Sunday evening, informing co-workers that these hours are off limits.
She prioritizes the most important things first, with the other bits of life filling in the gaps. That sounds, to me, like the way life should be lived.
On the internet, many people start their day with email triage. In fact, many people exist in a reactive state most of the time, allowing the incoming deluge of requests to dictate their schedule. For me (and not the case for everyone), morning is my most productive time. So the first 2-3 hours is usually blocked off for what Cal Newport calls Deep Work. That’s time that I (and no one else) decide how to spend. It’s time that I’m in a proactive and intentional state.
The start of that is making sure I have an empty screen to look at each morning. That way, there’s nothing to clutter my mind. When I open the browser, Idenati is my default homepage. Having planned ahead how I will start the day, I launch only the relevant tile or 2 required to dedicate my attention fully to the task at hand.
It’s a nice way to start the day.
Volume 4
Yesterday I mentioned starting each day with a blank screen. But there are different gradations of “blank”.
For the longest time, my desktop was cluttered with app icons, recent downloads, random screenshots, and more. Most of these are single-use items never to be clicked again.
An easy way to reduce digital clutter is to delete everything. At first, I considered reviewing each item one-by-one. But I caught myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I opened any of it.
Select all, delete!
Ahh!
Then I updated my desktop background to a small glass of water on a white table. I find it stunningly beautiful!
A tasteless, odorless, colorless chemical that contains no nutrients or calories. Yet it’s the primary constituent of fluids in all known living things and vital to all life forms.
Remarkable!
Volume 5
In this final volume of the Manifesto on Attention, I would be remiss to not talk about meditation.
When I was 22 I read a book called Awakening The Buddha Within. It was my introduction to meditation and mindfulness.
When I sat down to attempt my first meditation, I was immediately confronted with a profound realization.
I had no control over my mind.
When I tried to focus on my breathing, I became distracted in under 60 seconds. Time and time again, my thoughts wandered off.
Up until that point, it felt obvious that thoughts were self-directed. It turns out not to be the case.
And to be clear, meditation doesn’t fix this problem 100%. None of us can be completely mindful all of the time. But developing a meditation practice has been the single best strategy for making improvements in this regard.
So in honor of that cherished first experience, I want to share a snippet from a guided meditation that I often return to:
(you’ll have to imagine that dreamy guided meditation voice)
To help you maintain that focus on the breath,
silently start to count the breaths as they pass.
One with the rising sensation.
Two with the falling sensation.
Then three, then four.
Just up to a count of 10.
When you get to 10, you can stop,
then start again at 1.
Just try that a couple of times through.
Remember to allow thoughts to come and go,
but the moment you get distracted,
just gently bring the attention back again,
to that physical sensation of the breath.
… [long pause] …
It’s perfectly normal for the mind to wander off.
Remember as soon as you get distracted,
as soon as you realize that the mind has wandered off,
just gently bringing the attention back again
and just picking it up on the number you left off on.
This is such a powerful concept. There are so many moments in life that get away from us. An argument with a significant other, when your 100-pound german shepherd breaks things with his long fluffy tail, irrelevant email solicitations from thoughtless salespeople, people hitting “reply all"… The list is never-ending.
Whenever these happen, meditation has made it easier to pause, notice the anger or frustration welling up, refocus, and begin again.
I hope you have enjoyed the Manifesto on Attention. And perhaps it will provide a small nudge in the direction of mindfulness and intentionality, both online and otherwise.
Cheers!
Ps if you especially enjoyed this Manifesto, please take a moment to forward this email to a friend or loved one. 
And if you’re so inclined, you can click here to take advantage of Idenati, and more importantly, the philosophy and way of life it represents. 
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