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Have you thought lately about the word attention?

You want your boss’s attention.  A speaker wants your attention.  How you do your work will gain attention.  Some people want to get attention while others are trying unsuccessfully to give attention.  Some are willing to pay attention while others refuse attention.   You can call attention, receive undue attention, turn your attention, and capture attention.

So, what is this attention that is so important?

What is Attention?

Basically, there are two sides to attention.  At the most elemental level, think of attention as a bright fluorescent yellow highlighter used to emphasize important text in a book.  As you read through that section of text, the highlighted section stands out, causing you to focus your interest in that area.

But attention is not just about centering your focus on one particular thing; it also causes you to ignore a great deal of competing for information.  Attention allows you to “tune out” information, sensations, and perceptions that are not relevant at the moment and instead focus your energy on the information that’s important. ​

By focusing our attention on something in our surrounding environment, we sometimes miss other things that are right in front of us. For example, you can probably immediately think of a time where you were so focused on a task that you neglected to notice someone walking into the room or talking to you. Since your attentional resources were so focused on one thing, you neglected something else.

Importance of Attention

The average human has an eight-second attention span–less than that of a goldfish, according to a 2015 study from Microsoft. That number has continued to shrink over the years due to our digital connectedness and the fact that the brain is always seeking out what’s new and what’s next.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we need all the attention we can get—literally.  We need attention from our community, peers, and customers.  Our products and services need our attention.  We need to give attention to our business practices.  And our employees deserve our undivided attention.

Each one of these attention getters and attention receivers has the same limited attention span—eight seconds.  If that attention span increases, our chances of making an impact improves dramatically.

Although it is possible to impact the attention span of others (such as employees and customers), the easiest place to start is yourself.

Your focus is the act of attention.  Focus is just like a muscle; it can be strengthened through awareness and exercise.  Here are several ideas on how to improve your attention span.

Tips to Improve Your Attention Capabilities

  1. Value your attention. You are only capable of committing so much attention at one time.  Be selective on what you are listening and attending to.  If possible, schedule important tasks and conversations to a better time where you will be able to devote your full attention.
  2. Silence your devices– Nothing distracts like noise. Turn off the chimes, dings, and chirps. Eliminate those alerts from your email, Apple watch,… everything.
  3. Close your screens– Even if you aren’t using your computer or laptop, this is a big symbolic gesture. Close your laptop, shut off the monitor, and turn your phone face-down on the desk.
  4. Don’t multi-task– Doing multiple things at once doesn’t work. You are unable to give you full attention to more than one thing at a time. Inevitably, you miss things or create re-work for yourself.
  5. Face the person you are speaking with– Looking at someone face-to-face is a powerful way to demonstrate your attention. It shows that you aren’t reading other things or glancing at your phone or computer. It builds trust and stronger communication.  Always look a person in the eye.
  6. Listen before speaking– Giving your attention doesn’t mean that you have to jump to respond and provide answers to everything that someone is telling you. Listen more than you speak. Absorb and understand what is communicated. Some of the best conversations occur when you only listen.

The Bible

Hebrews 2:1 says.

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

God is telling us to pay attention to what we have heard from those who have come before us explaining and teaching the message of the Bible; He does not say just to remember the Bible’s message, or to listen carefully to someone who teaches it or to simply try to follow it.

God is telling us to pay attention to the gospel message.  We are to listen, hear, absorb, contemplate, discuss, and ultimately make it a daily part of our lives.  God’s meaning of attention is to hear and live what is said.

We need to take that same level of importance to our 21st-century meaning of attention.

When we pay attention, we need to give everything to the act of what we are hearing, seeing and learning.  In that way will we get the most benefit from devoting our limited attention time to a single topic.