By choosing what you want to pay attention to.

There’s only so many hours in the day.

In the brave new digital world, lots of our time and attention is spent online. In fact, for some people, the majority of the time that really counts is spent online.

Many have jobs which require the use of a computer and often that usage comes with an intranet or the internet. Plus we have phones, smart refrigerators, watches that tell anyone watching us where we are at any given moment and a host of other devices which keep us connected.

The truth is, that’s not really so bad; in theory anyway.

The problem of attention dilution crops up when each way we’re connected to the internet wants to be our “one true love.” That is; each software, platform, program, and app wants each of us to be connected strictly to them; and nobody else.

To enforce this idea, we are offered a bevy of alerts, jumping gifs, and special sounds each trying to be so unique we instantly recognize which app is beckoning us with their cheery tones.

Frankly, I would like to be alerted if my mother fell down and couldn’t get up or if someone was breaking into my house or trying to use my debit card to buy a truckload of baby goat dolls in Toronto. But otherwise, there is almost nothing I need to know about in “one true love” fashion.

It got to the point where I was not getting anything done because my life was so full of alerts and emergency messages and latest updates.

So I decided that my attention belonged to me and I had the right to decide who to pay attention to.

Lots of people write posts like this about how important it is to spend less time online. I think we should spend our time we want to, doing what we want to do. So here’s what I did to bring my time and attention back under my control.

These are really simple to implement.

1. I turned off the sound on my phone and my desktop.

I spend most of my day writing or talking with people I write for, so I need to be online. But I don’t need to listen to all the beeps and bings and whistles. It is so peaceful.

2. I turned off any instant alerts I could find telling me when someone I am connected to did anything online.

Now honestly, I use my phone mostly as a phone or a texting device. I use my computer for any handheld device app that demands I stay logged in all the time. Mostly because I am old school and I don’t want to be logged in all the time.

3. I check my email 3 times a day.

Morning, noon and night. If there is something I need to respond to, I respond to it right then and there.

4. I plan my work out in advance so I know approximately how much time I need to spend working.

I like working, so my real problem isn’t with writing, it’s the other things I need to do during the day. I include time for breaks in my workday, and those are all digital free times. I do not use my breaks to catch up on anything electronic.

5. I leave my phone in my office when I go to bed.

The internet never sleeps, but I do and I am perfectly willing to let my technology work for me rather than the other way around.

I have been a tech user a long time and I love it. But I am a tech user, not a tech servant. It’s my life and I am determined to live it the way I see fit. No anger here, just determination that came from me realizing I needed to change how I lived. I did change and life is so much better now.

Visit Michael at and find more of his work here

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