How to Mind Your Own Business and Ignore the Attention Economy

“I just don’t have enough time!”

If you’ve ever uttered those words, you’re not alone.

Time is one of our most valuable commodities, yet it can be easily and quickly squandered.

An important component of our time quotient is our attention.

Spend too much attention on the wrong things (which is part of the ever-growing attention economy) and you end up wasting not only your time but your energy.

If you’re operating a side gig (or want to), evaluating where your attention goes can help turn your part-time work-from-home opportunity into a long-lasting, lucrative career.


What is the attention economy and why is it so important to consider?

We live in a society where everything is vying for our attention. It’s so easy to lose some (or sometimes all) of our attention to things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter.

This is known as attention economy, a term coined by Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon. As a psychologist and economist, Mr. Simon studied human nature and things like supply and demand and deficits. He noticed that attention is like a bottleneck of our thoughts. When we are in an overly stimulating environment, we’re limited in what we can do or perceive. Needless to say, he wasn’t a fan of multitasking.

Theoretical physicist Micheal Goldhaber seconded Mr. Simon’s theory, saying that the future would no longer consist of a material-based economy. Rather, it would be an attention-based economy.

We have so much going on throughout the day—errands to run, work to do, homework to complete, etc. On top of that, we also have a ton of distractions such as email, streaming services, social media, texting, phone calls, and more.

Mr. Goldhaber predicted that the internet would eventually rewire our brains, and that as a result, attention would become a scarce commodity.


How constant distraction can impact your career goals

Distractions make it hard to concentrate. Interestingly, when you’re distracted, the effects last longer than that one moment. A 2015 study conducted by The University of California, Irvine found that it takes nearly 25 minutes to get back into a project mentally after being distracted.

Another study found that distractions contributed to nearly 95% productivity loss annually in businesses.

If you’re working on a side hustle, your part-time work can actually feel like a full-time job because constant distractions take up so much of your time. Not only is this discouraging but it can also slow your progress and significantly reduce your profits.


The attention economy can drain you physically, mentally, and emotionally

Constant distraction is also extremely draining, which is interesting because of the reasons why people get distracted. Some reasons why we’re easily distracted include:

  • Depression
  • Boredom
  • Procrastination
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Loneliness
  • Indecision
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO)

It’s too easy to reach for your phone and start checking email or scrolling through social media when you feel this way. The problem with this is two-fold.

First, you know that you should be doing your side gig tasks but you’re not, so you start feeling guilty and even beat yourself up emotionally. And when you feel bad you don’t feel like working, so you keep scrolling.

Second, it’s so easy to start comparing yourself—whether physically, socially, or economically—with others on social media. Influencers look like they have their life together, while you’re sitting on your couch scrolling through your feed for hours at a time.

Recent studies have even found that social media distractions exacerbate mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

Feeling mentally and emotionally drained and discouraged can lead to physical exhaustion. Additionally, it is so easy to lose track of time when scrolling through social media or binge-watching YouTube or Netflix (or doing all of the above). Before you know it, you’ve stayed up half the night and have no idea how you’re going to function in the morning.

All because of:

  • Distractions
  • How hard it is to get back to work once you’re distracted


What you can do to increase your attention span

Don’t panic—there are steps you can take to overcome or limit distractions.


Take a break from social media

This might be a hard one at first. You might need to turn off your phone and stay away from computers or tablets. If it helps, go to a park, the beach, or lunch with friends—and make sure there’s a “no distractions” policy for everyone there.


Spend some time away from tech

Some people do this by tech fasting—staying away from their phone, tablet, computer, and TV for at least a full week. Again, it’s hard at first, but taking time to enjoy nature or engage in hobbies can help.


Try the Pomodoro technique

One way to avoid distractions while you’re working is to set a timer and work in sprints. The Pomodoro technique is as follows:

  • Work for 25 minutes
  • Take a five-minute break
  • Repeat four times
  • Instead of a five-minute break the fourth time, you get to take a 15-minute break
  • Repeat


Work toward goals that fill you with joy

Having a side-gig can actually help you overcome distractions—as long as you’re engaging in work that lights you up. Yes, building a side hustle will be challenging, but if you love what you do you’ll be less likely to give in to distractions.


For best results, take (and embrace) baby steps

Making changes of any kind will take time to implement, no matter how beneficial they are. The key is to throw judgement out the door and treat yourself with compassion.

In many instances, detoxing from social media and other distractions is like working through any other type of addiction. Remember that it’s not your fault—the internet and the scientists behind social media apps have created them to be addictive and distracting.

But you can overcome. And in the process, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re doing everything in your power to go after your goals.

Interested in starting a social selling side-gig with Vector? Request an interview today!