Creating an attention cottage

From The Attention Cottage by A.J. Jacobs:

What I need, what I am trying to build, is — I coin this phrase by analogy to a memory palace — an attention cottage

We think we should be living in the chaotic, cacophanous megalopolis and retreat to our cottage only in desperate circumstances. But the reverse is true: our attention cottage should be our home, our secure base, the place from which we set out on our adventures in contemporaneity and to which we always make our nostos.

I love this little metaphor. We could all use an attention cottage, a place in which to focus and sink, uninterrupted, into deep work.

I wonder, though, if the milieu of such a thing can be temporal as much as spatial. My current “attention cottage” primarily comprises my home office, but only at certain times of day (early mornings before my children awake, or late evenings, when they’re asleep). Outside these hours, I do live in the “chaotic, cacophonous megalopolis” just by virtue of my chosen job function and method of daily employment, even within the physical space of my attention cottage. As a manager, even if I eschew (and I mostly do) social media and involuntary distractions during the workday, context switching is inevitable and focal diversions inevitably still pop up. (Hello, Slack!)

So here’s what I—and most of us—can and should do: block out time. Sometimes my attention cottage is ambling—a mid-day stroll through the neighborhood to think. Sometimes it is sedentary—an hour or two to write documentation or strategy documents or catering to the whims of muses in an essay or a blog post. Sometimes it is both. One’s cottage must comprise both quiet time and quiet space to relax and bathe, uninterrupted in ideas and thoughts and dreams.