For those who haven’t heard – “To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter.” (from Linda Stone who coined the phrase)
I am definitely experiencing continuous partial attention, for which I hadn’t seen any problem, until recently.Â In fact, I was quite enjoying the experiences!
I have always be a very efficient multi-tasker also, well able to do many things at the same time, being able to pick up and drop things at the drop of a hat, then pick them up again without losing any noticeable continuity. Not being a perfectionist helps with that, as long as all jobs are done adequately – I do not accept shoddy work. As long as the work is done and as efficiently as possible, I’m happy.
But I’m starting to notice some setbacks to this partial attention, especially when coupled with the information overload I also manage on a daily basis. Something has to give and it has been giving.
I can’t read a non-fiction book easily anymore.
Fiction is fine, that’s my escape from reality and I tend to only read things that engage my attention and that I truly enjoy, so I can get through one of those with no noticeable difficulty. Non-fiction however, which is more educational than purely enjoyable for me and which of course then takes more work, is a lot harder for me now.
I have some great books sitting on my bedside table, my favourite reading point, but not my only one.Â Some are recently borrowed from my library and those I make a priority of because they have to go back.Â I struggle with those, even with a time limit, with many having gone back to the library, mostly unstarted. Quite a few other books are personal copies and have been sitting there for up to a year, either unstarted or partially started and still awaiting their turn.
They are not boring books either, not by a mile.Â But for some reason, I find my reading of non-fiction is changing to be more like snacking – small doses and very diverse content.Â The majority of my non-fiction reading now is blog posts, journal articles, report summaries, conference papers etc.
I snack on this type of reading across my day – when I have a few moments to sit, when I am waiting for my kids at their regular activities, etc.Â Maybe its the diversity of the reading, or the perceived urgency (won’t be current if I leave it too long), or because if I don’t take it in as soon as possible I’ll be missing out on something.Â Or it could be the information overload and after reading so much professional stuff, I am full and can’t sit down to a full meal – those non-fiction books on my bedside table. I don’t know if its one of these or a combination of many, but I find myself wanting to know and caring more about it now.
I like knowing about things, it comes from being a born reference librarian, but I recognised a long time ago that there was no chance I could keep up with it all, so I have had to pick and choose.Â I thought I had been doing pretty well, but maybe its time to have another look at the personal filters I have been using and adjust them a bit.
I want to read those books on my bedside table – they have excellent content, ideas and inspiration and come from authors I admire, but I believe its going to take a change of mindset and some pretty hefty willpower to make it happen in a more timely manner.
Am I the only one feeling or thinking like this?Â Either way, feel free to share with me any strategies you think may help.