Attention is a Budget

Think about how a monthly budget works. Each month, a set amount of money comes in; then, we have to devise a plan to allocate the money in an effective way that allows us to meet all our needs and get the things we want. We start with the big stuff: rent, utilities, car payments, insurance, groceries, and gas. As we work our way through the budget, we end up getting to smaller things: savings, dry cleaning, entertainment, and clothes. The important thing about a budget is that we know from day 1 what our starting point is and then plan to use up every single resource (in this case, dollar) that we have.

Attention works the same way. Each day, we have a set amount of attention that we allocate and use on different tasks. As an adult, it most likely looks different than a student. We have to allocate our time to get the family through the morning, get off to work on time, complete tasks and attend meetings throughout the day. Then, we get home and take care of the family again before maybe relaxing for a little.

For students, their main goal is to effectively use their attention budget to maximize their learning and understanding throughout the day. This attention can be bungled each day. There are phones, youtube, Reddit, and social media. A few attention things to consider:

Don’t leave work for when the budget is depleted- This happens so often with students. They wait until the very end of the day to start working on homework. This may be 9 PM, 10 PM, or maybe even later. The students attention is low, their energy is low, and learning is going to be at a minimum. For students with ADHD especially, this can be a recipe for disaster. It’s important for students to get the work done at a time when the budget is still high. This can be a challenge, and it is why the time right after school is so vital to get work done.

Find the time of day when there is the most attention left- If possible, students should plan to get their school work done at the optimal time of day. For college students, this is usually a bit easier. They have more free time and flexibility throughout the day, so they can plan trips to the library in the morning, midday, or whenever they feel like they’re at peak attention hours. For high school students, it can be a little tougher. However, if they take advantage of study halls, lunches, and free time in class, they will find that they can capitalize on getting work done effectively when their attention budget is still high.

Use other people to increase the budget- Working with others helps. It’s the same with the rent portion of a monthly budget. If you have a roommate, you can pool your money together and get a bigger and nicer place. If you have 2 roommates, your place should be even better. By pooling together attention budgets, you can get more work done for longer periods of time. When possible, students should set up study dates to increase better attention and productivity.

Attention is a budget. We can use this knowledge to our advantage to better maximize our day. When our attention is at peak performance levels, we learn more effectively. 

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