Thank You for Your Undivided Attention

Time to wake up. Your smartphone sits three inches away from your head at bedtime. Last night you had a night terror about being separated from it.

This has to be good for productivity. Irina Blok/

Time to wake up. Your smartphone sits three inches away from your head at bedtime. Last night you had a night terror about being separated from it.

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It’s time for morning yoga. You call your Lyft. It arrives on time. The driver is being friendly to you and shares something about his kids, but you have people on the Internet to talk to. You send a text and nod. Sounds interesting—whatever he’s saying. You pretend to be engaged so you’ll get a good review and not seem like a total jerk. That’s all that matters. Your driver says bye. You walk out the door—you don’t remember if you remembered to say bye or not. It’s OK. You rated him five stars and tipped him. Your guilt is absolved.

Yoga class begins. You have to feel Zen to start the day. You have to feel at peace. You have to feel closer to a state of dharma. But fuck, you forgot to email your boss about that customer this morning. It’s already been one hour and fifteen minutes since she sent the email. What will she think? She also sent you a chat message. You do the downward dog. You place the phone in front of you. Good thing you have your AirPods on. You tap them twice and whisper into them as the instructor yells out instructions. You respond. There are one or two minor spelling errors, but whatever. Speed is more important than accuracy.

After yoga, you text in line as you wait for the shower. Shit, you have to place your grocery order for the week. You forgot to do it yesterday because you ran out of time. Mid-text you open another app window — Instacart. You add some of the recommended items from the previous week. You add a few more. Back to the text—wait, what were you saying? You can’t remember. Whom were you texting? Yikes, small lapse—it’s OK.

Class was great. Time to get some coffee. You walk to the same place every day. You are walking; you are responding to work emails; you are Yelping the place you scheduled tonight’s dinner date for. Exciting. You message your date on Tinder. Seems great. This one is a winner. You pick something rated four and a half stars that has 150-plus reviews. You’ve never been there before, but it’s perfect — it’s three dollar signs, not not four. You don’t want to seem pretentious.

BUZZ. A chat message from work. One of your employees is asking you for an answer to something. You can’t decide whether to type or use Siri. You hesitate. You order your coffee really quickly after looking up for a fleeting moment at the barista. Keep going. Faster. You pay using Apple Pay. You wish they had designed this better. You wish you’d be able to respond to the chat messages while using Apple Pay. Design flaw. Maybe they should hire you.

But not right now. You have to do this current job. It pays the bills. At a later date, you’ll pursue your dreams. You have time.

A phone call interrupts your flow. It’s Nicole. Fuck, something happened with her engagement. You’d better answer. You are walking hurriedly to catch the Muni from the coffee shop. Why won’t these people get out of your way?

You sit down on the Muni bus. A person with a broken leg is looking for a seat. You consider for a moment giving it to them. Can’t. You need to focus on the call.

You can now multitask while she’s talking to you. You complete your dinner reservation using OpenTable. She is saying something about her fiancée and her deciding to break things off. The two of them don’t see eye to eye. You throw in a “Sorry to hear that” and a “What can I do to help?” to make her feel better. She says how great you are for just listening. You hear her typing away as she’s talking to you. You both talk about how it’s been way too long, and how you need to hang out soon.

You don’t put anything on the calendar. You both know you won’t get together anytime soon.

Lots of conference calls at work today and lots of meetings. It’s all about meetings. Back-to-back-to-back meetings today. You don’t have five minutes on your calendar to do anything. You’d better use the meeting time efficiently to do other stuff.

The 9:00 a.m. exec meeting goes down without a hitch. You were able to use the time to order a TaskRabbit to assemble your new dresser from Design Within Reach. They should rename that place Design out of Reach—three grand for a dresser was more than you’d like to have spent, but it looks nice.

The 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. one-on-ones with your staff are going OK. You are able to do a few quick Twitter searches and refreshes to see what Trump is up to. You don’t want to give him the satisfaction of a “follow,” but you read his stuff every day. You check CNN. You check Breitbart because you’re fascinated as to what “other America” thinks. Woah. It sure is crazy out there.

But you’d better use that 1:00 p.m. conference call to research some new productivity tools. You spend more time of your job on productivity tools than you do actually producing. What an epiphany. That would be a hilarious Medium post. You contemplate writing it for a minute. You add it to the Notes section of your phone. You will get to it this weekend.

The 3:00 p.m. meeting is a total wash. You spend most of the time talking (typing) shit over Google Hangouts Messenger about the other people in the room to Sean. But wait, your phone buzzes. You have a separate shit-talking Slack thread going with Shannon now. This is awesome. You are able to pass the time by passively listening to what’s going on, and being entertained. This has to be good for productivity. It’s a morale booster.

Almost time for your dinner date. You arrive. This place is perfect. It has that Zen aesthetic—exposed wood, string lights—and they serve water in mason jars, and everything on the menu either says “locally grown” or “organic.” You can tell that it’s really good by the clientele — everyone is wearing Allbirds, Patagonia vests and AirPods.

After work, you meet your date. You start talking about yours days. She works in tech too. Your date is “eh.” You know within 10 minutes. You hear a few details about her job and her family and her past relationships between checking the Warriors score and monitoring the situation in North Korea. Something crazy might happen mid-dinner. You never know. Something about getting out of a bad relationship and working in start-ups.

The sex is uneventful. You check your phone. It buzzes. You say it’s work. It’s your next Tinder match — you swipe right. Need to plan ahead, because this is just not going to work out.

Need your five hours. You send your date home. You say something about having a great time.

You feel anxiety. You wake up in the middle of the night. Something doesn’t feel right. Your mind is wandering from place to place. You stare at a dot on the ceiling. It’s a technique you learned in yoga. And from Sam Harris.

The dot is staring back at you.

You’ve finally given your undivided attention.

Sunil Rajaraman is the Co-Founder of, CEO of The Bold Italic, and a columnist at

Thank You for Your Undivided Attention