Why you should start paying more attention to your attention

Manuel Brenner
8 min readOct 18, 2019
Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash

Why did you click on this post? Because of the title? Because of the picture of an explosion that will be absolutely unrelated to the content of this article? Did you even consciously decide to click?

The attention industry

The internet has become an industry revolving around a strange commodity: attention.

Attention is the cornerstone of commerce on the world wide web. Advertisers fight for it to get you to buy their products, supported by the advances of smart machines spitting out predictions hand-tailored to make you listen up most effectively.

Websites and apps try to get you to visit, and once you visit, as Tristan Harris very impressively points out in his work (see for example here), play all the dirtiest tricks in the book to make you stay.

And then the occasional Medium writer tries to get you to visit and to make you read. For the noble purpose of spreading important ideas, for the not so noble purpose of making cash. Whatever it is: in some way you decided to spend your attention on reading this very article in this very second.

Maybe you took the easy route instead of doing some important work you should rather be doing. Did you really spend enough time considering whether you should give me your attention?

The pleasures of staying focused

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

When have you felt most satisfied with the results of a workday? Was it when you answered hundreds of emails and messages? Was it after you toiled away hours upon hours on social media? After you got lost in the endless expanses of Twitter or Facebook?

Of course not. I don’t really think anyone ever thought that, ever.

As Cal Newport points out in his book Deep Work, satisfaction usually derives from doing hard work well, from staying focused, from learning something hard the hard way. Of overcoming the mind’s tendency to get distracted and sticking to something, earning it, pulling through.