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    September 2019

    What is attention management? A modern twist on a nineteenth century productivity secret

    September 16, 2019 49 Views No comments

    If you know about my new book, you have likely been introduced to the term “attention management.” Although the phrase existed before I started using it, it was not used in relation to productivity. In fact, it was not particularly relevant or useful to our everyday lives.

    Attention management is at the very heart of my work as a speaker, trainer, and author. Attention management is really just like it sounds—managing your attention.

    My definition of it is a little more specific. I define it as the practice of creating the conditions that allow you to intentionally engage the most optimal brain state to achieve your best results in the moment.


    A 19th Century Take on Attention Management

    A psychologist and philosopher in the 19th century, William James, was an advocate of the ideas behind attention management. He wrote: “[Attention] is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought.”

    Here, the key word is “one.” No one can give their attention simultaneously to all of the things that demand it. Attention management allows you to be more proactive than reactive. It means you decide where your attention goes instead of letting outside demands decide it for you.

    William James suggested that attention management gives you the ability to maintain control over your thoughts and actions, rather than inadvertently relinquishing this control.


    Attention Management Helps You Live a Life of Choice Rather Than a Life of Reaction and Distraction

    Today, you can use attention management as a defense against the damage our fast-paced, technology-rich environment does to our mind, body, and soul. It’s also essential for achieving your most significant results daily, so that you can stay in control of your days, and therefore ultimately, your life.

    You might wonder if attention management is just “focus.” But you can think of it as the collective practice of a group of behaviors, including focus, concentration, mindfulness, presence, and flow. It offers the ability to consciously direct your attention in any given moment despite distractions, to be more proactive than reactive, and to maintain control over your thoughts, rather than inadvertently relinquishing control.

    Attention management is the antidote to everything in our environment that sabotages our attention. We live in a fast-paced, “always-on” society, and that has negative consequences for our ability and efforts to be productive.

    Attention management is the key to controlling distractions, maximizing focus, and becoming engaged in “flow.” It helps you to be present in the moment, whether that be at work or at leisure. It helps you to maximize your brain power and your unique skills to bring your best self to the moment—what I call “unleashing your genius.”


    Our Attention Determines the Life We Lead

    Another quote from William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. This implies that you must control your attention to control your life. Productivity is basically about directing your activities to do more of the things that are important to you. Attention management is the logical path to get you there.

    Being able to control your attention requires practice. You’ll be more successful on some days than on others. Managing your attention depends on several factors. It’s not just about distraction.

    While attention management is a skill to be developed, there are also physiological factors. Sleep, nutrition, and hydration play an important part in your ability to control your attention, also. When these important elements are neglected, your focus, productivity level, and ability to avoid distractions will also suffer.


    Single Focus Instead of Multi-Task to Increase Effectiveness

    Attention management is the idea that how you spend your time is relevant only to the extent that you also devote your attention, because time spent on a task with divided attention is much less effective than time spent focused on the task without interruption.

    To be sure, traditional “time management” theory still contains useful concepts, such as making lists, setting goals, and prioritizing tasks. It’s the practical application of these ideas that fail the test of time, and most time management training has not been updated to keep up with modern technology and the increasing pace of business. Distraction is the single biggest problem for knowledge workers today. Attention management is the skill we need in our modern, technology-driven society.

    -Maura Nevel Thomas


    If you want to learn more about Attention Management, click here!

    A version of this article originally appeared on maurathomas.com.

    You can preview and purchase the book here>>

    Live with Purpose

    September 9, 2019 65 Views No comments

    Although we can't choose how we're born, we do get to choose how we live. This means that your choices matter in a big way. Understanding that you matter is the first step in living a life with purpose. After that, it's about taking one Monday, one action at a time - leading to a change in your life and those around you. Here are some steps from Every Monday Matters to help you get started on your journey:


    1. Make Monday Joyful

    Joy surrounds us - we can create it, experience it and share it. And it comes in so many different forms! When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it? How often do you laugh until it hurts? And can you recall taking a moment to love the little things? If you can't remember, make it a point to start each Monday (eventually each day!) to take a few minutes to think about joyfulness and what it means to you.


    Take it a step further: start a new hobby that looks like fun; find a funny picture and share it with someone to make them laugh; do a little thing each day for a week to bring yourself or someone else joy.


    2. Make Monday Creative

    Everyone is unique; there is only one you. Do you take the time to appreciate your individual creativity or the creativity of those around you? Being creative allows you to express what makes you different, and it connects you to other people.

    Art is a gift that allows you to appreciate the world around you. Our hands are an amazing creation that enable us to build something we can share. And our differences are what provide so much variety.

    Use these gifts to get creative: Try expressing yourself by doing something simple such as doodling, cooking, or writing a short story. Use your hands to build something small for your house - there are plenty of online tutorials to get you started. Find a new, local international-inspired restaurant, concert or exhibit to experience.


    3. Make Monday Positive

    Positivity is more inspiring and valuable than negativity; however, it always seems harder to look on the bright side. The good news is, you can change this and you will likely be surprised by how easy it is to be positive with everyone you come across. When you focus on the good in your life, you can flip the script by saying and doing positive things. By asking a simple "why not?" you can take matters into your own hands and let go of negativity.

    Put positivity out in the world this week: When your friends or co-workers get together for a pity party, try leading them into a conversation that instead promotes the positives. When something in your life feels out of reach, try turning it into a "why not?" and see where it takes you. Lastly, think back to someone who made a difference in your life and call, write or email to let them know.


    4. Make Monday Expressive

    Everyone has a unique story. Have you shared yours? It can be hard to tell your tale and trust that you'll be accepted but, in order to live a life that matters, you need to embrace who you are and be honest and authentic. Only then can you truly be living a life with purpose.

    Express your true self: Look at your emails, social posts, and texts from this past week and take an audit to see if you meant what you said. Find a way to show your love to friends and family in your own creative and meaningfully way. Lastly, share a secret with someone you trust.


    For more ways to live a life that matters, check out Every Monday Matters>>


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