Business, Lifehack

Living with CPA (Continuous Partial Attention)

As I write this blog post I am also watching a movie. It is not that the movie is so bad, in fact it is a movie I like, but I suffer from CPA (Continuous Partial Attention).
CPA has struck the nation with the fervor of an epidemic. We talk on cell phones while driving, surf the web while watching TV, instant message in meetings, text while shopping, and talk in movies. People who live with CPA are never quite present where they are present. There is not a whole lot of there when we are there. It is an affliction that more and more American’s live with. We live with the constant distraction by shiny objects. There is no known cure for those afflicted with CPA. So here are some guidelines for living with the malady.

  • Spaces – Create some spaces where there are less distractions. I used to think that I could work in front of the television. I was convinced that I could multi-task. Those who suffer from CPA call it “multi-tasking”. We can do two things at once and do it well we tell ourselves. All my podcasting takes place in a room in the second story of our house away from the TV in the family room.
  • Times – Create some times where you can focus. In my house, Saturday mornings are quiet enough to podcast without distractions. Mornings are always quiet when everyone else in the house is a night owl. Limit some activities to certain hours. I try to not check my (500) RSS feeds between 9am and 6pm, if I don’t get to them before “work hours” they can wait.
  • Limits – Yes, the web is calling out to you. But make a plan what websites you will check how often. Create a daily folder for web sites you want to check once a day. Only check them once a day. Create another folder for websites that you only need to check once a week. Only check them once a week. Yes, your email is urgent, but you don’t have to check your email every 5 minutes, change your email program to only check once an hour, less often if you can get away with it. Check your RSS feeds daily, but no more.
  • Breaks – I have learned that I can’t work 7 days a week without burning out. Pick a day, my day is Sunday, when the work email can stay unopened.
  • Edit – I subscribe to about 70 podcasts (yes it is an addiction, but remember people with CPA like to “multi-task”) but finally learned to give myself permission to skip through episodes that don’t grab my attention. If a show sits on my Tivo for 3 weeks before I watch it, maybe I can just delete it. I am still learning that trick.
  • Timeouts – If I need to concentrate on a particular project then I know I need to stop the podcasts i am listening to, shut off twitter, quit my email program and maybe even shut down my instance message client.

There is is no known cure for CPA but with help you can learn to live with the… what’s that… ooooo shiny.

Author: chris2x

One man's view of life in Silicon Valley from Chris Christensen - a podcaster, blogger, programmer, entrepreneur


  1. On breaks… I might suggest, too, that one needs to actually get up and walk away from the keyboard a couple of times during the work day. Your body will appreciate it, and just five minutes can restore focus on that shiny object for a bit longer…

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