I used to have one simple way to see my information stream--my laptop. Things have become much more overwhelming in the past two years because I carry a generous amount of a touchable life stream in my pocket. I can't get away from the babble.
Actually, that's not true because I can switch off or turn away. For my own mental health, I need to toally unplug more each day because I just can't manage all the noise when I allow all the pop-ups to dominate my daily life.
Experts who have looked into these things know I'm dealing with an "attention crash" and that I'm complicit in pushing third level students directly into the same morass.
An attention crash affects my ability to think in private and to collaborate effectively. The human mind cannot keep working effectively if the flow of inputs keeps accelerating. As humans, we cannot manage a crescendo of attention-grabbing tasks. As Steve Rubel said more than three years ago, "Human attention does not obey Moore's Law." (Ruble now blogs at http://www.steverubel.me. I pulled Rubel's initial blog post out of the Wayback Machine and pasted it below the references.)
I listen to the calm voice of Gina Trapani and have tried to take her advice by applying the 80/20 principle to my life. It means ruthlessly culling parts of the electronic flow that hits me like waves rolling onto White Strand (County Mayo). It means deleting mail without opening it and also spending time to push important mail directly to the main focus of my daily life.
Any advice? I'm listening.
Steve Rubel -- "The Attention Crash" has been scraped and placed below.
The graphics comes from Marc Andreessen’s blog and represents the findings of researchers as related by Frans Johansson in The Medici Effect.
Marc Andreessen -- "Short Attention Span Theater"
Timothy Ferris -- The 4-Hour Workweek ISBN 978-0307353139
Gina Trapani -- "How to apply the 80/20 rule to your life"
Bonus Link: Lifestreams affected by attention issues with Neville Hobson.
Previously: The Attention Crash" on Inside View, August 29, 2008.
Steve Rubel on The Attention Crash
If you want to learn how to blog, go read Marc Andreessen's new weblog. I haven't absorbed many other blogs as deeply as a I have his - at least since he started writing it a few weeks ago.
Marc says that we're not in a Web 2.0 bubble and I have to agree. We're not seeing nearly as many millionaires minted as we did the first go round. That's a sure sign.
However, there is definitely a bubble and therefore a crash coming. It's not financial. It's not related to the level of noise or startups. This crash is personal.
We are reaching a point where the number of inputs we have as individuals is beginning to exceed what we are capable as humans of managing. The demands for our attention are becoming so great, and the problem so widespread, that it will cause people to crash and curtail these drains. Human attention does not obey Moore's Law.
I have seen this in my own life. I am applying some of the principles Marc wrote about here as well as practices that Tim Ferriss describes in his amazing book, The 4-Hour Workweek. I look forward to getting more tips when I meet Tim in person this week. I am particularly trying to reduce my need to check email dozens of time per day.
More importantly, I have become fascinated with Tim's use of the 80/20 principle, which Gina describes here. With this philosophy in mind, I have trimmed projects, RSS feeds and emails to hone in on the 20 percent that's most important. It's also why I am not trying every new site that floats in my inbox and deleting pitches that are clearly off topic w/o even reading them.
My attention has reached a limit so I have re-calibrated it to make it more effective. I think this issue is an epidemic. We have too many demands on our attention and the rapid success of Tim's book indicates that people will start to cut back on the information they are gorging.
If this happens en masse, will it cause a financial pullback? Possibly if ad revenues sag as a result.