We live in a remarkable time. We have an infinite wealth of information, connections and resources at our fingertips, thanks to the internet and smartphones. But what we don’t have is an abundance of time or unlimited attention spans, both of which are scarce resources. They are extremely valuable to you, to marketers and to social media platforms.
When you start treating your attention as your most valuable resource, you’ll protect it. Learning how to budget your attention is an essential skill in the Attention Economy. What’s the Attention Economy? It’s the world we live in.
Related: How to Train Your Brain to Focus
Your phone, the apps you use and every website you visit are designed to capture and hold your attention. Media companies write scary headlines on purpose. Everyone says they want more positive news, but we know from decades of data that you pay attention only when there’s controversy, uncertainty or tragedy.
Media companies know this and use it to their advantage. Headlines that trigger feelings of uncertainty make you look. That’s why we write them that way. And when we have your attention, we make money. And guess who loses? Your dreams.
Consider the real reason you check your phone more than 150 times a day on average: It’s a principle called random rewards, and it also explains why people keep pulling a slot machine lever over and over. Because every once in a while when you look again, you might get a winner (or a good email) so you keep checking in case there’s a random surprise waiting for you.
If you want the best of everything in life, the skill of eliminating what you don’t want is critical.
Start by asking yourself a simple question: Do you use your phone as a tool to advance your goals and make money, or is your phone using you?
Remind yourself that you are the product and your attention is being sold.
Every time you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook News Feed, remind yourself that you are the product and your attention is being sold. Remember that Facebook makes money on all of the ads you see.
And it goes beyond social media platforms. Every moment of every day there is something begging for your attention: emails to reply to, texts to send, phone calls to answer, pop-up ads to sit through.
My favorite way to make my attention valuable is to protect the first hour of my day at all costs. When I wake up, I don’t look at my phone, log on to my computer or turn on the TV. I refuse to give these devices my attention. Instead I turn my attention to the things that matter to me most: exercising and getting my children ready for school. This one habit has created so much control in my life.
In today’s world, your attention is being bought and sold all day long and it’s making a lot of companies a lot of money. If you want to create abundance in your life, it’s time to guard it as your most precious resource.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.