Creativity Hello Pip-Life

:: I Need To Tell You: I Have CPA

February 11, 2015

CPA. It means continuous partial attention.

“To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter… We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING.”

The quote above is from Linda Stone who first coined the term CPA back in 1998.

So do you have CPA? I do. It’s a bit of an occupational hazard, but I’m trying not to have it, truth be told. CPA is not good for me. It’s not good for my brain. (More on that in a minute).

With my CPA, I don’t even think I’m trying to avoid missing stuff (FOMO), rather I think I’m just looking for something interesting a lot of the time. I don’t really care if stuff passes me by or if I’m not included in stuff, instead I’m looking for things that pique my interest and make me think/feel a little more. (I also want to share those things with others, so the connect and be connected markers of CPA are definitely a factor for me.)

Ever-present devices have many of us CPAing like crazy people, but the good news is that once we admit the problem we can do something about it. First steps, and all.

I first started thinking about making a change when I was in Bali for the creative retreats last year. We didn’t use technology during the day and it was pretty refreshing. (Granted this is generally not something we can achieve when we are working people). I really noticed that without my CPA behaviour (mindless scrolling, casual checking) I had a lot more time to think/feel a little more. So the very thing I’m CPAing for is best achieved without technology in my hand.

Granted, the thinks/feels WITHOUT a device are usually internal Pip-driven things, but I’m all for a bit of self-awareness. I think it’s a good thing to work on, especially from within.

The thinks/feels that I’m looking to spot WITH a device as my guide, are probably not as valuable, truth be told. I think they’re probably best summed up as consumables or fleeting bites and because they are not as connected to my own life or experiences, I don’t seem to retain them as easily. These little bits of noticed info drift into focus and quickly drift out again, replaced by something freshly spotted. I guess it’s kind of like digital snacking? Not really brain food, that’s for sure.

I think while continuous partial attention can help us to find snack-sized information and be up to the minute with notifications, its very nature means that our retention of whatever we’re noticing is pretty weak.  Often, with CPA gleaned stuff the need to know/share is paramount which is a shame because the ability to retain and expand on the gems we find should be the things that matter most, don’t you think?

The vigilance that’s spoken of in Linda’s quote above is also pretty taxing. I imagine for people who are isolated or depressed that kind of vigilance, spotlighting the external could sometimes increase anxiety and heighten feelings of isolation, rather than nurturing. That’s just no good for anyone.

So what I’m proposing (to myself), due to my own CPA-ed state, are a some simple strategies to encourage less of this snacky-tech-focused attention disorder and more of the personal/internal thinks/feels. Here’s where I’m going to start:

+ Turn off notifications on my phone – I can check in at structured times, not whenever a notification pops up.
+ Stop using Twitter when I’m watching TV – it’s distracting and kinda mindless
+ Try not taking my phone everywhere with me – I don’t always need to be contactable
+ Watching movies in bed on a TV – not on my computer which is distraction filled
+ Keeping my laptop closed and stowed away when I’m hanging out/not working
+ Put down the device if I’m talking to a real life person – every time

+ Stop using social media direct messages – they are such an ever-present, popping up distraction – I actually did this already
+ Take fewer photos of things I am about to eat (!)
+ Moderate blog comments and social media less frequently (
twice a day, ideally)

I’m reducing opportunities to be partially attentive and giving myself back that time for thoughts and ideas instead.

How about you? Do you have CPA? How bad is yours? And do you have any other strategies to avoid this time-wasting, information snacking?

How do you make sure what you’re consuming online is a) not taking over your whole life and b) nourishing and good for you?!

x Pip


  • Reply Katie Lowe February 16, 2015 at 4:32 PM

    This really sounds familiar except I think I just do it to distract myself from all the things that stress me out & procrastinate stuff I need to get done. I’ve decided to cut back on the mindless internet browsing & IG browsing to try & get more done, quality over quantity to connect & actually DO some of my ideas rather than put them off!

  • Reply Loretta February 13, 2015 at 8:52 AM

    Yep, definitely! This year have instigated some stricter rules regarding technology for myself and my teenage kids: NO technology in the bedrooms (I am failing at that one, keep checking my email on my phone!), devices are only to be used in communal areas, no technology on Sundays (we are really good at that one) and none before school. Seems to be working really well at the moment, but I’d cheerfully chuck every last ipad, MacAir and iPod in the bin if I could:-)

    And I stumbled upon this article which you might find interesting. I loved it:

    PS Wrote you a letter for 52 Hellos last week but it takes forever to get to Melb from the country these days!

  • Reply vee February 12, 2015 at 7:32 PM

    My friend just published a book…and I don’t know if it’s available in Austrailia or not, but I think you’d love it – it’s called “The Joy of Missing Out” and is about how FOMO steals joy from our life.

  • Reply Kathy February 12, 2015 at 9:18 AM

    YEP! Definitely feel like you! And, notice it going on all around me, ALL OF THE TIME!
    A friend and I, are going to Camp Grounded (in California) this year, because of it! My daughter, and a friend went last year, and LOVED it! It’s basically, Summer Camp for Adults. But, you aren’t allowed to bring any technology with you!!! You are there for four days, completely “unplugged!” I’m really looking forward to it!!!
    Here is the website, if you want to read about it.

  • Reply Ingrid February 12, 2015 at 5:39 AM

    Oh, this speaks to me, too. I’ve already implemented some of your strategies, Pip, and I limit my looks at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to three times a day. I usually do a little circuit of these sites, finishing up with Pinterest. And only books are allowed in the hour before bedtime. It all helps.

  • Reply Zanni February 11, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    Yes to ALL of the above!

  • Reply nicole February 11, 2015 at 9:30 PM

    ugh, i feel like this is me too. definitely rocking some cpa over here.
    though more so at work… i’m always listening out to whatever is going on, making sure that everyone is okay, and no-one is in trouble, or saying silly things, or forgetting to pay attention to anyone. it. is. exhausting. bleurgh!
    definitely taking note of some of your ideas. you are such a clever lady xoox

  • Reply Susan Nethercote February 11, 2015 at 8:09 PM

    I so dig this post Pip. I really dislike the sensation of constantly being hassled by my inbox and social media. I’m actually pretty bad at multitasking and I find that I have to switch these things off to get anything done at all. Perhaps this has done me a huge favour! As a person who likes to deeply engage from within I’m all for this! xx

  • Reply Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages February 11, 2015 at 8:04 PM

    I am definitely a digital snacker. I am constantly sneaking a peek at notifications or comments or social media and having a quick flick around whenever I have an idle moment. I know I should probably cut back but then I find that I have to cram so much awesomeness into a very finite window. It is a juggle.

  • Reply Rebecca Jee February 11, 2015 at 6:01 PM

    I think I can track the decline of my fiction writing with the advent of the internet, which is very sad. I’ve always been a gadget girl (even before the internet) and have a pretty major lack of self control when it comes to turning off devices/not checking things.

    I liked something Jesse said in Bali, I think it was that in her household they just turn the ASDL off at 9pm or something, so that you have no choice but to disconnect. I agree that not having our phones on during the day in Bali was a wonderful thing – it wasn’t disconnecting so much as REconnecting with people face to face.

    I need to rethink my ‘multitasking’ (ref: to your earlier post on that!) and constant checking of social media, especially when I’m bored. As Neil Gaiman has been saying lately, boredom is a wonderful thing because it actually is what gets your imagination working!

  • Reply Sophie February 11, 2015 at 5:44 PM

    its a bit crazy that you wrote this as my boyfriend had a bit of a life crisis and meltdown last night about mobile phones! He just upgraded from a 3 to a 4s and has become fully addicted… But not nearly as much as me.
    He wants us/me to cut down as he’s freaking about the short attention span and memory it’s giving us, and I can fully see that too (I struggle to pick up a book as my hand always wanders over to my phone within 5mins), but it’s so hard when you’re a blogger and actually work in social media full time!
    My phone habits intertwine with my hobbie as a blogger and my day job, so it’s hard to go cold turkey in the eves (and mornings…), but I have to cut down as it’s getting way too much… But I too have switched notifications off as well 🙂
    iPhones anonymous, anyone?

  • Reply Natalie Wilkes February 11, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    Great post!! I gave up Facebook as one of my resolutions this year, and it feels FANTASTIC!! I was just spending so much of my day checking it because I truly was so worried about missing out on something interesting. And I don’t really think I have. I have gotten so much done this year already, like painting the kitchen, ripping up Lino, heaps! All things I’ve been putting off for years. I was also worried I was wasting my little ones’ lives away. Didn’t want them to look back on their childhood and remember mum on her phone all the time. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I definitely wasn’t retaining knowledge – actually not sure I was learning anything interesting anyway!!
    Still have a ways to go, like cutting back on blogs, but I’ll get there!

  • Reply Karen Andrews February 11, 2015 at 4:50 PM

    I have this too – recognised it a long time ago (although I called it the “drawback of a multi-passionate nature” – which is quite wanky sounding, isn’t it?) I’ve gotten better at leaving things alone – hopping off Twitter at a certain time (and social media in general) and leaving my phone at home when I can. It feels much better. x

  • Reply Michelle Del Beato February 11, 2015 at 4:23 PM

    I also have ‘CPA’ (and FOMO) but have now decided that I need to schedule times to check and read emails, blogs, updates etc. etc. to avoid losing my head and precious time.
    I quit a job in the corporate world a couple of weeks ago and this time for me is working out what I really want to do i.e. making stuff, drawing and hopefully commencing a little business.
    So, I have decided to schedule times for checking and reading emails, blogs, updates etc. and list what I would like to achieve each day. It may sound corny but I think it will definitely work for me.
    Keeping the laptop closed and the phone out of site is great step forward.
    Good luck to you Pip with keeping the CPA in check.

  • Reply Kelly Exeter February 11, 2015 at 4:07 PM

    This is 100% me Pip:

    “I don’t really care if stuff passes me by or if I’m not included in stuff, instead I’m looking for things that pique my interest and make me think/feel a little more”

    And it needs to stop! I’ve made note of your techniques above!

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