43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

"Zerstreutheit" and the Attention Management Cure

Linda Stone: Is it Time to Retire the Never-Ending List?

Linda Stone -- who coined the phrase "continuous partial attention" -- makes a thoughtful distinction between managing time and attention, deflating the misconception that making long lists and then overscheduling your day can be a bulwark against distractions, interruptions, and the crippling feeling of being overwhelmed.

In this recent blog entry from the Huffington Post, Stone talks about a pattern she's noticed from talking with people about how they think about and plan their day.

What did surgeons, artists, and CEO's have in common? Most of them reported that they managed both their time and their attention. In surgery, in the studio, and in the time carved out to think through strategies and issues, these professionals reported shutting down the devices and endless inputs (email, phone, interruptions), at scheduled times, and claiming those moments to focus. In almost every case, these professionals reported experiencing "flow" (a la Csikszentmihalyi) in their work.

[HuffPo link via Boing Boing]

She also goes on to include some tips about managing attention and focusing on outcomes rather than just obsessing over building a long and un-doable list. Good post -- and a great reminder that time management has no prayer of working if it's not accompanied by even tighter attention management.

I also have to share this William James quote, which Stone's post mentions in passing (my emphasis).

Every one knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction, and Zerstreutheit in German.

"Zerstreutheit." I love it when there's a German word for my problem.

ludwigschubert's picture

literal translation of "Zerstreutheit"

I think you might love it even more when you hear that the literal translation of "Zerstreutheit" is something like being scattered all over the place, which imho is a wonderful image for that kind of problem.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »