Actionable Ideas #4: Attention Residue, Response Space, Inversion

In these actionable ideas articles, I highlight three ideas that you can convert into immediate action to drive meaningful value in your work and life.

Idea #1: Attention Residue

Themes: focus, productivity, self-management

There’s a cost to switching your attention, even if the switch is brief. This is because of attention residue: when you switch to another task, the original task leaves a “residue” that reduces cognitive performance. Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) suggests that we view our attention like a game of snake: as you focus on your task, you are building up attention on that task alone and minimizing chances for costly attention residue.

Action item: the next time you need to focus on a task, imagine your focus like the snake game – if you break your focus, you lose everything and start from scratch because of attention residue.

Idea #2: Response Space

Themes: self-management, conflict management, emotional intelligence

The Stimulus-Response Model (Mujtaba, 2008, p. 4) | Download ...

Viktor Frankl said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." By breaking down the stimulus/response patterns in our lives, we create room to intentionally decide how we we want to respond to a negative trigger rather than react impulsively.

Action item: the next time you have a conflict, try to pause and decide your response. A great way to create space is to ask yourself “is this emotion helping me? How can I best respond to create the best outcome?”

Idea #3: Inversion

Themes: problem solving, critical thinking, creativity

Look Past the Obvious for a Better Solution - Shep Hyken

Inversion is the idea that to solve a problem sometimes you can find the solution easier if you think about how not to solve the problem, aka “avoiding stupidity”. Instead of "how can I solve this problem?" ask "what would prevent me from solving this problem?" As Charlie Munger put it: "Instead of looking for success, make a list of how to fail instead."

Action item: think of a goal you have and instead of thinking about how to achieve it, think about how not to achieve it e.g. I want to become a manager vs. what would prevent me from becoming a manager?