If you have ever watched the Penn & Teller Fool Us magic show on TV, your eyes would have looked on in disbelief as highly skilled and polished contestants attempt to ‘fool’ Penn Jillette and Ray Teller (the one who never speaks).

It’s a gross understatement to say that performances are amazing – most are utterly astounding, and we are left wondering, How did s/he do that, Where did that card go, Why can’t I work that out? We’ve all been tricked. But how?

Well, if there’s one thing that magicians are super good at, it is misdirection. Theirs is the art of skilfully distracting us while pulling rabbits out of hats. And they are not the only ones good at creating distractions.

It’s pretty certain that, right now, on the screen of your phone or tablet, you can see little red circles containing numbers. Each one is waiting for you to take some action.

Software engineers put them there to grab your attention, and psychologists helped them do it. This savvy know-how diverts you from doing other things so that you put a greater priority on those little red circles than almost anything else. Clever, aren’t they?

Problem is, while we are being distracted, important tasks get pushed back into the “I’ll get to it later” basket. If something important given a lower priority, then the absence of action may well be harmful, whether it’s to do with your finances, or your online security, or your family’s well-being.
One way to think about acting on issues is to categorise the increasing inflow of diversions under three simple headings:
• Comic (red circles on a smart device, for example)
• Caring (remembering to do something pleasant and positive for family or friends)
• Crucial (making sure critical family provisions are in place)

A few years ago, a friend told me about a publication which, in its day, was one of the most widely read in history. It’s called ‘A Message to Garcia’. It’s about focusing on important tasks … and giving them priority by getting them done. It’s not magic, it’s just good sense.

There’s no sleight of hand in this short and simple piece of literature; it takes moments to read and once read is unlikely to ever be forgotten.
Here it is for your pleasure. We hope you enjoy it. A Message to Garcia.

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