Continuous Partial Attention: CPA or CBA?


How can you LAUNCH your Resilience?

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about stress, wellbeing and resilience in education – there’s a lot of stress about generally due to austerity, uncertainty and changes in the social and political landscape – but in education there seems to be an awful lot.

I delivered a session in December for Year 11s as they were about to break for their holidays and have been asked to deliver similar sessions for Year 10s, Year 9s and I’ve just been commissioned to deliver a session for students at a Lancashire University and also to deliver some blended training in the area of motivation and resilience for SME business owners in the creative sector (Small and Medium sized Businesses).

OK, so how do you blend Motivation and resilience?

Storytelling and a good toolkit is our answer.

The LAUNCH session has been adapted for the purpose and goes back to the essence of the word – identifying, uncovering and promoting the idea of ‘purpose’ as the tool to help people and businesses launch themselves.

We then move onto Resilience Roulette using with our favourite prop the big red dice! In the frame we have 6 of the 10 traits of resilience (from James Hilton’s excellent book) and audience members are picked at random to roll the dice and each number corresponds to a separate exercise which we carry out in groups to focus on one aspect of resilience.

Throughout the sessions, groups are changed, people get to work with people they don’t know well or have never met, and the energy is kept high through activities and discussions.

Participants at the end of the session get to understand their purpose, motivations and how to personally ensure they remain effective and positive through the ups and downs of life, work and the challenges that are thrown our way.


Continuous Partial Attention.

How often are you in a conversation and half listening and half thinking about work, a Facebook post that’s annoyed you or the Amazon or Tesco online offer that ends at midnight?

When we watch TV with a tablet or device we are half paying attention to both.

Walking along a street scrolling through Social Media.

On a train ‘just’ doing your emails.

Our attention is split and we’re not doing either thing very well. We are also on constant low-level alert. According to Linda Stone a former Apple and Microsoft Executive, when we are always reachable through that device in our hand or our back pocket, we are engaged in Continuous Partial Attention (CPA) – not as stressful as multi-tasking as such – but the constant sense of now wanting to miss out on anything.

By playing into the hands of gamified social media (likes, comments and retweets are the same as ‘points’ according to the excellent Irresistible book from 2018) we are giving all areas of life contained in our devices equal weight and therefore equal importance.

Lecturing in the subject, Linda Stone claims that this sense of always being reachable and available for whomever wants to reach us on whatever platform, had led us to feeling an artificial sense of constant crisis…the medium to long term impact of paying half attention to everything means that you cannot give your full attention to anything. Unless…

…yes, unless you take time to have dedicated periods of ‘unreachableness’. Author Dr David Rock says that the only way he can write for uninterrupted periods of time he has found, is when he works in Australia and flies long-haul on a semi-regular basis. He asserts that ‘making ourselves inaccessible from time to time is essential to boosting our focus’.

Finally, Professor Sophie Leroy from Bothell School of Business at the University of Washington has coined a phrase for the constant task switching we ask our brains to carry out. Attention Residue is what happens when we are required to switch our attention from one thing to another when we haven’t completed the previous task properly…as well as loads of burned toast and half-finished documents, our concentration is dogged with thoughts of loose ends flailing in the wind just out of reach of our focus.

In the world we inhabit it takes a conscious decision to make ourselves uncontactable and undisturbable and it could seem to employers like an act of rebellion if you don’t answer WhatsApp and email messages with the perceived ‘appropriate’ speed, but without solid and undivided attention all our activities suffer and we are far less productive.

For Easter we will be switching off as much as possible, going Island Hopping in the Hebrides, pony trekking on Mull and taking photos of clouds.

What about you?


TW: @EnterpriseSBox