Attention as Currency

There is no creation without destruction, and the cost might not be immediately obvious.

 

Let’s talk about the digital age.

 

Allergic to Studying
Allergic to studying…and Spanish pollen…

 

I am not the academic or scholastic type. I hated school. I barely passed and didn’t put much effort in. I was there to chill with friends, and because I had to be there. You want an enthusiastic student, talk to Dr. Bradley.

 

From 2003-2005, that had to change. I spent two years in Spain as a Mormon missionary, and my job was to serve and teach. Can’t teach if you don’t know anything, so my mission president implemented a rigorous study program.

 

I struggled with it at first, but eventually learned to love it. There were goals and milestones to reach, and with nothing else to distract me, I chewed the program up and spat it out.
Distractions these days are constant. Phones, computers, websites and apps have two purposes: take your time, and take your money. Sometimes simultaneously.

 

Back then, in the mission, we didn’t use computers more than once a week, and were very limited on phone usage. Distractions came in the form of thinking too much about home, about girls, about things I missed. Other than that, there wasn’t an instantaneous access to things I wanted, so it was easier to study and focus.
 

I killed that program in 8 months. When President Watson added a 5th level, wherein we had to memorize a ton of scriptures, I was among the first to reach it.

 

Our schedule required us to be up no later than 7AM, but I usually got up at 6, and sometimes 5, to grind when a milestone was close.

 

There were days when I couldn’t get started though. I hated missing even a minute, but if my thoughts strayed, I could waste ten minutes thinking about a letter from a girl-friend, which I couldn’t reply to until the following week. It sucked, but I whipped myself back into focus and finished the study program.

 

Now I’m beset by distractions at every turn. Some are relevant, most are self-inflicted. Damn this smartphone and every social network that I haven’t deleted. Damn blogging and texting and every project idea I have but can’t possibly tackle. Damn this scattered brain in my 30s, reminding me of the brain I had in my 20s.

 

Right now I am studying for part of my pending career change, and have reverted to many of the habits I developed in the summer of 2004, memorizing content for a certification exam. I have gotten better about the time I waste, but still have so far to go.

 

The digital age has created unparalleled opportunities for commerce, communication, and information. Speaking for myself, I have consumed this age at the expense of my focus and discipline.  Maybe you have, too.

 

Be careful about the time you waste and the habits you develop. Set a goal and work toward crushing it. You will realize just how little time you have every day.

 

And maybe you won’t waste so much of it, like I do.

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