‘Pay attention’ – it’s something we’re used to hearing at school, and something we try to practice at work. But in the age of productivity – one filled with endless notifications and seemingly infinite email inboxes – it can be hard to pay real attention. Rob Walker is a writer and journalist based in New York. “Paying attention is a pretty vital skill for a designer [and] crucial to any creative process,” he says of the ability to notice what others might miss. In his recent book, The Art of Noticing, he encourages us to slow down, and flex those observational muscles. Because if you look closely at the everyday, you’ll realise that it’s perhaps not so everyday after all. Here, in an extract from one of the book’s chapters, Rob takes inspiration from artist Marina Abramović to explain why it’s worth taking the time to have a mental palate cleanser.