Martian Thoughts

Shallow attention, focused attention


Shallow attention allows us to do more in the slotted time with the allocated resources. Pay less attention here while you look there, give this person five minutes and have a quick word on your way to the next meeting, in which you can be half present while being half present in two alternating conversations taking place in the palm of your hand.

Focused attention is intense and demanding, inconvenient and expensive. We may feel our stress mount as task upon task is piled onto an endlessly increasing to-do list. We get to do one thing, and we do it well, but the world keeps spinning and we can’t reach a quarter of the places we would like to. If we limit ourselves to being fully present, we will inevitably have to make difficult decisions.

The ultimate choice may be whether we want to do a lot or a lot of good.