Deep Word #08: A Residue of Your Attention Remains Stuck

Deep Word Writing Project Template
Title: A Residue of Your Attention Remains Stuck

Quote: The problem this research identifies with this work strategy is that when you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task. This residue gets especially thick if your work on Task A was unbounded and of low intensity before you switched, but even if you finish Task A before moving on, your attention remains divided for a while. Leroy studied the effect of this attention residue on performance by forcing task switches in the laboratory. In one such experiment, for example, she started her subjects working on a set of word puzzles. In one of the trials, she would interrupt them and tell them that they needed to move on to a new and challenging task, in this case, reading résumés and making hypothetical hiring decisions. In other trials, she let the subjects finish the puzzles before giving them the next task. In between puzzling and hiring, she would deploy a quick lexical decision game to quantify the amount of residue left from the first task.*

The results from this and her similar experiments were clear: “People experiencing attention residue after switching tasks are likely to demonstrate poor performance on that next task,” and the more intense the residue, the worse the performance. The concept of attention residue helps explain why the intensity formula is true and therefore helps explain Grant’s productivity. By working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, Grant minimizes the negative impact of attention residue from his other obligations, allowing him to maximize performance on this one task. When Grant is working for days in isolation on a paper, in other words, he’s doing so at a higher level of effectiveness than the standard professor following a more distracted strategy in which the work is repeatedly interrupted by residue-slathering interruptions. [1]

Note: [ under construction! ]

What gets your attention?
What human needs or problems are addressed?
What questions do you have?
What solution or hope does it offer?

What does it say that we need to obey?
What would a camera see if this happened?
Who needs to hear this?
What are the actual steps that I would take?

SOURCE – Footnotes:

[1]  Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016),


This post, and others in this series, are based on the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), and as a group are a review of the important ideas and of the entire book. I was also privileged to take the online course Life of Focus Standard Edition [CN040]taught by Cal Newport and Scott Young and presented through, which enhanced my understanding of the subject which I am now applying to my own profession, the work of the local church pastor.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.
Key: Deep_Word_#08  Last Revision: 10/06/2020

This entry was posted in Deep Word. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.