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What did surgeons, artists, and CEO's have in common? Most of them reported that they managed both their time and their attention. In surgery, in the studio, and in the time carved out to think through strategies and issues, these professionals reported shutting down the devices and endless inputs (email, phone, interruptions), at scheduled times, and claiming those moments to focus. In almost every case, these professionals reported experiencing "flow" (a la Csikszentmihalyi) in their work.
We think we know what attention is. In fact, today's dictionary will tell us it's the "concentration of the mental powers upon an object." This definition assumes our attention can effectively be everywhere, all the time. We haven't always thought of attention this way.
In 1890, when the psychologist, William James, gave a definition of attention, he described it as, "taking possession by the mind in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought... It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others."