When you pay attention, look for the ROA
A friend of mine—a guy who I’ve never met IRL, but a guy who I consider a friend nonetheless—started a Slack group. He’s invited a bunch of his friends and me (including me?) to join. He posts interesting things that he’s read along comments explaining why we might want to read them as well. We also get to post our own interesting stuff, but so far he’s been the main contributor.
After reading a couple of his posts this morning I started DMing him thus:
I am mostly grateful and slightly annoyed that you have created this. The gratitude is for the interesting and thought provoking content you keep pushing out along with your own interesting and thought provoking comments. But I’m annoyed because you’ve created one more thing for me to pay attention to. And I just don’t have enough attention for everything that interests me.
But then I thought: Right! I’m paying attention. So what’s my ROI? And what’s the ROI when I pay attention elsewhere?
And then I started writing this post. Because I started to do the math. I just sent him the DM, I’d get a small reward, but it would be minimal. I’d get my own sense of satisfaction: it is a goodness to acknowledge someone else’s goodness. And he would probably feel good that I acknowledged him: it is a goodness to have your goodness acknowledged.
Not much investment and not much return.
But then I realized that if I added these further thoughts to the DM then I’d have to pay more attention—writing something, even at the relatively low quality level that a sane person would use for a DM, would take a lot more attention for not much more return. And I tend to over-work everything I write, so even more attention for that same return.
Instead, I decided to write this. I knew I’d have to invest a lot more, but writing creates knowledge and I’d get a return on that effort.
What’s my ROA (Return on Attention) for the other things that I attend to? What low ROA activities can I cut out of my life to invest more attention in the high ROA ones?
Easy answer. I immediately deleted Twitter and Reddit from my phone. I don’t pay that much attention but the ROA is much lower than my friend’s Slack group.
And I thought: instead of short answers to the content he posts, maybe I’ll pick one that inspires an essay like this one and write it. It’s a bigger investment, but I think the ROA is worth it.
Instead, I’m going to DM him this:
TL;DR thanks for the Slack group and the great stuff you post and the others you’ve invited. Longer thank you available here