Managing your attention is the new path to productivity
Time is precious and valuable. More valuable than money.
Time is the only element in the world that is irretrievable when it’s lost. Lose money and you can make more. Lose a job and you can find another. But lose time and it’s gone forever.
Some people are great at investing their time. Others have a laser-like focus on the right things but can’t find time to get them done. But many people are constantly distracted and can’t find the focus to do high-value work.
Attention, like time, is limited and precious; you only have so much of it — be responsible for your focus.
“Attention management is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus so that you can unleash your genius. It’s about being intentional instead of reactive,” writes Maura Thomas, founder of RegainYourTime, and author of Personal Productivity Secrets and Work Without Walls.
A study from the University of California at Irvine found that, on average, participants (who worked in the tech field) could only work on a project for 11 minutes before being distracted. What’s worse is that it took them more than 25 minutes to regain their focus.
You can only do effective and productive work if you know how best to manage your time and attention. To better manage your attention, you need to understand how it’s actually spent, invested, or wasted.
Your attention determines the experiences you have at work and at home. And those experiences determine the progress you make in life.
When you improve your attention management skill, you will focus on getting things done at the right time, for the right reasons, and in the right places.
“If you’re trying to be more productive, don’t analyze how you spend your time. Pay attention to what consumes your attention, writes Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, and the author of “Originals”.
In the age of digital distraction, it’s not enough to find the time to get a task accomplished, you must also pay total attention to the task at hand.
Focus keeps you productive. It’s what determines whether you do what you want to or spend the day distracted.
According to Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus: The Hidden Power of Excellence, there are two main sources of distraction in our lives: sensory distractions (things happening around you) and emotional distractions (your inner dialogue, thoughts about things happening in your life).
To rebuild our attention and learn how to focus, we must be able to manage our distraction, overcome them and still do better work.
Control your attention, control your life
Attention works much like a muscle: use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows and puts you in control of your time.
Attention is more than just focusing on completing a task. We use our attention to shape and frame life’s big picture as well.
Sustained attention produces consistent results over time.
In his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, psychologist Daniel Goleman delves into the science of attention in all its varieties.
“The antidote for mind-wandering is meta-awareness, attention to attention itself, as in the ability to notice that you are not noticing what you should, and correcting your focus. Mindfulness makes this crucial attention muscle stronger,” says Goleman.
Every time you sit down to plan out your day you’re essentially deciding what you’re going to pay attention to that day — and what your experiences will be.
An improved attention management skill allows you consciously direct your attention in any given moment, to be more proactive than reactive.
“It’s about regaining control over your attention and thereby taking control of your life. Attention management empowers your productivity,” says Maura.
Focus is a valuable resource that’s constantly under attack.
Once you learn how to manage your attention, and focus on what is most important, you will become more effective, less stressed, and regain control of your time.