Continuous Partial Attention. You probably have this condition and don’t even know it. Here’s what it is and how to get rid of it to be your truly most productive self

Ever skip your workout and still feel absolutely exhausted at the end of the day?

You’re not alone. Today, we’re diving into a hidden productivity killer called Continuous Partial Attention (CPA), a condition that you probably have, BUT can get rid of.

Today we’ll explain what Continuous Partial Attention is, the difference between it and multi-tasking, a recent survey that will shock you and 3 tips how to get rid of it.

Think of Continuous Partial Attention as the modern multi-tasking gone rogue. It isn’t just juggling emails while texting – it’s the constant, vigilant scan for anything and everything that might be happening so you don’t “miss out”

The term was introduced by Former Apple and Microsoft executive Linda Stone in 1998 to describe a modern adaptive behavior of continuously dividing one’s attention. 

So what is it?

Continuous partial attention is your desire not to miss anything. Think of it like FOMO, fear of missing out. It thrives on a desire to be connected, in the know, and never miss an “opportunity”, even if that “opportunity” is of low value. 

So how is it really different from “muti-tasking”?

Where Continuous partial attention is motivated by your desire not to miss anything, multi-tasking is motivated by the impulse to be more productive. 

Each activity has the same priority  – we eat lunch AND answer emails, we make dinner WHILE talking on the phone.

We multi-task to CREATE more real opportunities for ourselves – basically killing two birds with one stone to free up time to do other things like say..have a hour of quiet after a long day or get in an hour workout.

How did you develop this condition?

In their annual survey of cell phone users, found that we check our phones an astonishing 144 times per day. That’s once every ten minutes!!!! 

Even if you do it half of that, you’re in Continuous Partial Attention.

And if it’s not your phone, you’re checking that tap you have open on X/Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, your favorite sports or stock market site.

Try paying attention how many times you check your phone or other sites for the next 3 hours after you listen to this episode. The result might surprise you…


Here are 3 practical tips to break free:

  1. Schedule “brain breaks”: Block out times in your calendar (even just 5 minutes!) to disconnect from all screens and let your mind wander. Go for a walk, call a friend, or simply close your eyes and breathe.
  2. Tame your notifications: Unnecessary pings and buzzes are Continuous Partial Attention siren calls. Silence notifications for most apps, schedule specific check-in times for others, and consider leaving your phone in another room when deep focus is required.
  3. Embrace single-tasking: Multitasking is a myth. Our brains can only truly focus on one thing at a time. The only reason you can cook and talk on the phone is because one task is automatic and even then you’re going to make mistakes.
    Prioritize one task, give it your full attention, and savor the feeling of accomplishment before moving on.

Remember, escaping Continuous Partial Attention isn’t about ignoring the world. It’s about reclaiming your focus, reducing stress, and doing things more efficiently to be your most productive self.

Your move.

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