As I mentioned a few minutes ago, our new issue (subscribe!) includes a Q-and-A I did with Linda Stone, coiner of the term "continuous partial attention," on how to maintain sanity and focus in an insane and unfocused world.
Here is the promised extended-play bonus version, beyond what we could work into two pages of the magazine:
JAMES FALLOWS: You're well known for the idea of continuous partial attention. Why is this a bad thing?
LINDA STONE: Continuous partial attention is neither good nor bad. We need different attention strategies in different contexts. The way you use your attention when you're writing a story may vary from the way you use your attention when you're driving a car, serving a meal to dinner guests, making love, or riding a bicycle. The important thing for us as humans is to have the capacity to tap the attention strategy that will best serve us in any given moment.
JF: What do you mean by "attention strategy"?
LS: From the time we're born, we're learning and modeling a variety of attention and communication strategies. For example, one parent might put one toy after another in front of the baby until the baby stops crying. Another parent might work with the baby to demonstrate a new way to play with the same toy. These are very different strategies, and they set up a very different way of relating to the world for those children. Adults model attention and communication strategies, and children imitate. In some cases, through sports or crafts or performing arts, children are taught attention strategies. Some of the training might involve managing the breath and emotions---bringing one's body and mind to the same place at the same time.