Friday, February 22, 2013

Being Vigilant about Continuous Partial Attention

It's easy to have a love affair with your favorite clothing retailer. 

You walk in. They smile and greet you (often by first name) and tickle you with a quick look at something new, something gorgeous, something you didn't realize you needed only moments before. 

Same scenario likely proves true with your iPhone. You love it and it loves you back. You can't imagine life without it and you hardly ever have to. No matter what you are doing, you are ALSO checking texts, emails, sites, deals, friends activities and other activities that you sure as hell can't afford to miss. 

That's because we all suffer from continuous partial attention, thanks in large part to ubiquitous social media and a world bent on emerging faster than qualifying. Like a baby deer learning how to walk, we are far too eager, much too busy and not at all ready to commit to the idea of slowing down, letting go and really relaxing. All of us. Suffer from CPA. For some, it can be an effective strategy to get more done but for others -- most of us -- it can be a negative thing that allows us to never really give anything our full attention and to always be on the lookout for the next big crisis. 

This is most often and most easily seen in the world of technology. Have you ever found yourself doing this: texting, emailing, watching the local news, helping the kid with homework, filing the taxes, updating a budget in excel, small-talking with your spouse, paying online bills, checking Facebook, booking a weekend trip and cooking dinner all at the same time. Or how about just 3 or 4 of those things all at the same time? Can you remember a time when you were only doing one of those things...giving it all your attention? 

I recently stumbled upon a clever ad taking aim at those of us who suffer from CPA in a bad way. It's a cute ad and it walks a viewer through more than a few emotions before resting on a very sharp point; the need to be vigilant with our online activity. 

It's almost impossible to be vigilant and CPA-efficient. To be vigilant is to be purposeful, heedful, alert and to care at a very heightened level. To not pay full attention or have the time or desire to do so is exactly opposite of being vigilant. It's having a continuously low regard for everything around you until nothing is really more important than anything else. And thus, the hunt for something important continues. Those two ideas; being vigilant and being overstimulated, appear to be in direct contrast with each other. 

Continuous partial attention is the "increasing inability and undesire to pay full attention to just one task, item or person and instead continually scan for other opportunity...while waiting for the next interruption." 

Vigilance can be described as "being wakeful and alert; a degree of wakefulness or responsiveness to stimuli." 

Here's the stimuli; the clever marketing ad. Watch it and decide. Would you be a victim to this mind-reader or have you been vigilant with your big data?