3 simple steps to keep your attention

written by Erica Quam

I remember my parents, teachers, and coaches telling me to, "Pay attention, Erica."  Especially when I was daydreaming...or more often just had a good 'ole case of the giggles.

Have you ever thought about the expression, 'Pay attention'? 

These days, marketers get paid big bucks to come up with advertising that will grab your attention. Companies pay huge chunks for TV time. All of these commercials, ads, billboards, SPAM and now even pop-ups on our computer are trying to PULL our attention away from us.

Your attention is valuable.  

And many of us literally give our attention away - each day. When you give your attention away, you give your power away.  In this day and age...where everything and everyone is vying for your attention, how can you keep it and keep your power?

Energy flows where attention goes.  

Think about that.  Where exactly DOES your energy flow?

I teach yoga. Initially I got into yoga to help my crazy brain become more quiet. My yoga practice is there to help me bring my attention back. This STILL is a moment by moment challenge!

WHAT do you GIVE your attention to?

Think of it like a charity that you are going to make a donation to. If you are going to contribute your money you are probably going to choose one that really matters to you and is aligned with your values.  

Instead of freely and sometimes carelessly giving your attention away, be more selective. 

WHO do you GIVE your attention to?

Do you give it to the most important people in your life or are you too attentive to people who don't deserve it. Some people require your attention, or even demand it. And sure - there are times where some of our attention has to go towards these challenging, negative, & maybe even demanding people. 

AND - I know for me - I get hooked or triggered and then spend more of my attention on these people than I should. Instead of moving forward and letting it go, I dwell on it, or even take more time and complain to someone else about it.  

If energy flows where attention goes, do I want to continue to waste so much energy? When I catch myself - which I'm trying to do more often - I realize I'd much rather give my attention to the people I love.

How do you KEEP your attention?

Our minds are so busy. They are attracted to that alert that buzzes in or the next bright shiny object that appears. 

With technology - and especially smartphones - we are becoming conditioned to check things constantly. We get texts, Facebook updates, email alerts, and all kinds of things ringing in. Each time we respond, our brain receives a dopamine response - that regulates the pleasure center in the brain.  It "feels good" to check your phone and to respond.  

To keep our attention requires practice. Try these 3 simple steps:

  1. Notice where your attention goes (awareness)
  2. Bring your attention back (power)
  3. Take a brain break (practice)

"Take a break? Do nothing? How can I do nothing? I have so much to do! I'm so busy!"

I know, I know. I've heard it before. I've said it before. So start small: 

  • When you are at a red light, just sit at the red light. Notice what's around you.  
  • When you are standing in line at the grocery store, just stand there. Enjoy a moment to breath.  
  • When you go to a coffee shop, try just sitting and drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Resist the urge to be on your device or pick up something to read.  

Just try it. For a few minutes a day. These "brain breaks" will actually make you more sharp, more productive, more creative, & probably more efficient.

Also, be on the lookout for what pulls your attention away. Do you see someone else check their phone? Are you waiting somewhere and there’s something uncomfortable about waiting? Is it a certain time of day or place?

With practice you are actually training your brain to recognize what captures your attention. Then the more space you place between those triggers and your response, the easier it gets to keep your attention - more naturally. Learn how to keep your attention aligned on the values that are important to you. That's where you want your energy to go.

How do you keep your attention? Share your advice or experiences in the comments below.