The Power of Attentiveness

I couldn't let this week go by without writing more about attentiveness.

This topic can be difficult for so many reasons, mostly because so many of us are so bad at it...and sometimes pretend we aren't.

A lot of us multitask...and we multitask a lot. I am not trying to persuade anyone to not multitask. That would be absurd. Even if studies show we are more productive and more creative when we focus on one thing at a time. Let's save that discussion for another day.

But, what if we took a different approach with our attentiveness, and tried specifically and consciously to give our full attention in short bursts?

I have been working hard at my own attentiveness for years. Sadly, at least for me, it’s not just a flip of the switch to change my behavior. I'm still not where I want to be.

About three or four years ago, my son helped me change settings in my smartphone to turn off the vibrations and tones for all incoming texts except those of my family members. Don't let me fool you, I still check my phone all day long...but I'm no longer interrupted by the device itself. This has been huge for me personally.

For several years before the pandemic, I had also been challenging myself to not be on my devices when interacting with family members. Before the pandemic, when family members were out and about at school, sports, and events, it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. And then the pandemic...

Oh, pandemic life. How it has turned my world upside down. My own expectations, my patience, my inability to find much needed think time and quiet time. Keeping the devices in check has been easy in some situations and excruciatingly difficult in others.

But, I have chosen in my own small world to work incredibly hard to close the laptop or put the phone down if any one of our children walks into the space I’m in, even if they aren't asking me a question directly. (The only exception to this is if I’m already on a work phone call or a video call). They might not notice that I am practicing giving my full attention, but I notice. And if I'm trying to kick this habit, that's what matters.

And I should apologize to the hundreds of people I interact with every week, especially in group Zoom settings, as multitasking almost has to be the norm, to fit so much into the day itself before demands of family life completely take over again in the evenings. If you were here in my home for meetings or even family dinner, I'd work hard to give you my undivided attention. Promise!

I’m not sure if we will ever get back to an old normal, and maybe a new normal will be more beautiful than we can even imagine.

For now, I will keep trying, every day, to be better at this specifically. And if you are wanting to be more attentive too, maybe by also putting down your devices when family members, neighbors, friends, or colleagues are around you (in person), I wish the best of luck with your efforts!