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What is your trade-off?

What is your trade-off?

My friend, let’s call him Adam, recently sent me the above masterpiece dictating our 10 units of attention. We all have a finite amount of attention we can give and all up, as once was explained to him, there are approximately 10 units we can distribute how we see fit. Within these units you can balance work, friends and family, projects, health and well-being, personal development – you get the idea. But you will always have only 10 units. So, for example, if you’re running all 10 units on work (which let’s face it in agency-land can often happen) you do so at the neglect and detriment of everything else that makes you a well-rounded person.

Our attention is at an all time premium with digital distractions demanding an investment from us at an increasing pace. It seems so simple and basic to commit to taking control of how we allocate our attention and thus time, but a simple act we often forgo for constant connection, extra hours at work and ultimately burn-out.

The 10 unit theory (as we’ll call it) reminds me of a post of Nick Crocker’s,  The Art of the Trade-off, which follows exactly the same premise but with kitchen stove top burners.

“One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work. In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.”

– David Sedaris

This time of year is a month where we make resolutions, bust out of the gate gung-ho to achieve them only to burn out early February with a defeated attitude and not a lot to show for it. My suggestion? Let’s look at where we are allocating our units of attention. Are we committing or trading off too much? Is your desire to get fit / get a promotion / make new friends/ loose weight / run a marathon being thwarted by committing too much to one area.

Yours in attention allocation,


Belinda Vesey-Brown About the author
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