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    Posts tagged 'attention management'

    Getting Easily Distracted? Attention Management to the Rescue

    September 23, 2019 1031 Views No comments

    Getting easily distracted at work and at home takes a toll on productivity. Our failure to practice attention management makes it harder and harder to live a life of choice, rather than a life of reaction.

    Distractions are abundant in our lives, both at work and at home. In our modern, technological world, there is always someone or something trying to steal our attention away from the task at hand: email, text messages, relentless push notifications, other people, and our own “busy” brain reminding us not to forget everything we have to do. It’s important to control our attention so that we can be productive and achieve the results that are most significant to us.


    Are You Easily Distracted? Attention Management Can Help

    Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Or, said another way: you must control your attention to control your life. Today, in a world where so many experiences are blended together—where distraction is rarely more than a few minutes away—has that ever been more true?

    However, it’s possible to develop and strengthen good attention management skills. By managing your attention, you are more readily able to increase your productivity, and to focus on the things in life that matter the most to you.


    Control Your Technology

    The first step to keep you from getting easily distracted is to control your technology. Remember that we purchase our technology tools for our convenience, not so everyone in the world can interrupt us at any time! Start by turning off those notifications. As often as possible and especially when you’re working, keep your phone silent and out of sight. Constant alerts and notifications have accustomed you to distraction, and this is chipping away at your attention span, your patience, and your ability to apply your brain power in a meaningful way.


    Control Your Environment

    Second, you have more control over your environment than you might think, and it’s time to exercise some of that control. Even if you work in an open-office setting, you can set some boundaries. For example, find ways to communicate to coworkers when you don’t want to be disturbed. Make a “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang on your office door, the back of your chair, or a cubicle wall when you are trying to focus, so you can get deeply engaged in your work without someone interrupting to ask, “Got a minute?”

    To control your environment, you also need to manage clutter. A cluttered workspace is a subtle source of stress, and it means that other work and other issues will be distracting you while you are trying to focus on the task at hand. If your desk is messy, at least put the “mess” in a pile, in a box, or in a folder marked “to process.” This will reduce the chances that the clutter will steal your attention. You can do the same with files cluttering your computer desktop, and use your email inbox for receiving messages, not for storing them.


    Control Your Habits

    The third part is the trickiest: learning to replace your unhelpful habits. When we get distracted every few minutes all day long, distraction becomes a habit, so that every few minutes we get distracted! You can learn to recognize how often you are being distracted so you can let go of that habit of distraction and improve your focus, your attention span, and your patience.


    Fight Back Against Distractions with Attention Management

    Practicing attention management means fighting back against distractions and creating opportunities throughout your day to support your priorities. Building good attention management habits will help you start to reclaim your life and devote more of yourself to what’s really important to you. Don’t allow distraction to derail your aspirations and intentions. Instead, control your attention to control your life.

    -Maura Nevel Thomas


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

    A version of this article previously appeared on MauraThomas.com.

    You can preview and purchase the book here>>

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

    September 16, 2019 1097 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>>

    Manage Interruptions in the Workplace

    August 29, 2019 2345 Views No comments

    Do you face constant interruptions in the workplace? These attention management strategies will increase your success

    In my corporate workshops, participants often ask me how they can manage all the interruptions they juggle during their days. They need a strategy to balance being available and helpful to colleagues, while still having undistracted time to get important work done in a thoughtful way. The suggestions below are excerpted from my latest book, Attention Management: How to Create Success and Gain Productivity - Every Day.

    Research shows that we switch our attention every few minutes, on average. Often, it’s because we are interrupted by typical workplace distractions – a new email, a co-worker, a ringing phone. It’s difficult to apply our brain power in a meaningful way in 3-minute increments! This means that we’re not giving our best to our jobs, and it also leaves us tired, but unsatisfied at the end of the day.

    Manage Interruptions to Avoid Being Distracted

    We must have undistracted time to get important work done, so the first step is managing interruptions, or as I call it, “controlling our environment.” For example, it’s understandable to want to be helpful to colleagues, but an “open-door policy” doesn’t mean we must be available all the time. Instead, it needs to be more like “office hours” — clearly defined times when we are accessible to others, and other times when we are not (except in case of emergency).

    These “do not disturb” times must be communicated to co-workers, because once they’ve said, “Do you have a minute?”, you’re already distracted. No matter how deeply we’re focused on a task and how much progress we’re making, the slightest interruption — such as someone calling our name — is enough to make all that momentum go “poof!” Then it can take several minutes to several hours to work up to the same level of concentration.

    All of these workplace interruptions hurt your productivity. If you have a door, close it. If people walk through it anyway, and you reward them with your attention, this indicates to them that the door didn’t mean anything. You have to create boundaries, and then honor them. Otherwise no one else will either.

    But even if you don’t have a door, you can still set some boundaries. Put on headphones or give co-workers other indications that you would prefer not to be disturbed. I love seeing the creative and funny signs my clients post on their chairs after our work together, such as:

    “Please do not disturb unless it’s an emergency. Qualifying emergencies:

      -I’m on fire.

      -Oprah is looking for me.”


      Preventing these interruptions in advance helps us to use our time more efficiently, and to also create an environment where we can focus on our most important tasks. Progress on meaningful work is a powerful motivator, and the more we do this, the more productive and satisfied we tend to be.

      Discover Your Ideal Balance

      It’s true that some jobs require more availability than others, such as human resources, customer service, and IT support. Remember, though: if you have other work that needs to get done besides being available to other people, you must create some of that uninterrupted work time.

      Consider approximately how much of your work time requires thoughtful, independent work, and how much requires collaboration and availability to others. Make a note of the percentage split. It doesn’t have to be precise, just the answer you come up with in a minute or two of thought.

      Then, consider how you might organize your days and exert some control over your environment, even in an open office setting, to incorporate an open (and closed) door policy. Your percentage split can guide how much time per day your sign is up or your door is closed. You must be vigilant, though. If your “do not disturb” message is up all day, every day, it will immediately lose its effectiveness. What method can you use to give your colleagues the message that you’re “in the zone” and would rather not be disturbed?

      Considering these ideas may lead you to make some changes in your behavior.But even if it doesn’t, let these ideas “percolate” in your brain for a while. Allowing constant interruptions is probably a habit you’ve formed out of necessity. And it’s hard to break a habit you don’t realize you have. With the points from this article on your mind, you’ll become more aware of this habit of distraction.

      -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>>


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