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I didn’t always understand that mastering attention management is critical in today’s workplace. In the beginning of my professional career, I focused on helping people get better organized so they could take action to get things done.
More than 20 years ago, a smart colleague started to talk about “focus management.” Over time, I pondered that concept as I watched the workplace become more and more full of technology and distraction. And that seed grew into my current practice of attention management.
“Time Management” Isn’t a Match for Our Modern Day
Today, being productive requires more than clearing clutter, making a task list, and using other “time management” strategies. In my work with clients, I see how many computer windows they keep open at once. I see monitors full of unfinished emails. Again and again, I watch as their time is hijacked by the latest message alerts or the incessant buzzing of their smartphones. And as they are frequently interrupted by colleagues stopping by and asking, “Got a minute?”
In my day-to-day life, I realize that both giving and receiving the “gift” of attention is getting more and more rare. Everyone has their heads bent down toward their phones at restaurants. People seem more interested in “capturing and posting” their experiences than in having them. Smartphone-in-hand seems to be the constant state.
What I observed both in my work and in my daily life made me frustrated, not only with others but also myself! I started thinking about the toll this distraction takes on our lives. And I started to realize that traditional time management techniques could no longer help my clients increase their productivity. I realized that they needed to shift from trying to manage their time to learning to manage their attention.
Once I started down the this path and saw the transformational effect it had on my clients, I never looked back. I learned more and more about the incredible need and opportunity we have to tame distraction and control our attention. Attention management is now the most unique and the most important part of my Empowered Productivity™ System.
How Attention Management Helps Increase Productivity
The simple definition of attention management is “the practice of controlling your attention.” But what exactly does that mean? I define attention management as the intentional application of a series of brain states, such as focus, flow, mindfulness, daydreaming, and reactivity. These are the states of mind that can help you achieve your most important objectives. In other words, attention management facilitates the pursuit of improved productivity. It’s the practice of intentionally engaging the most optimal brain state to achieve the best results in the moment.
Studies show that we switch our attention every three minutes on average. Smart, driven people like you have unique gifts to bring to the world—not only your knowledge, wisdom, and experience, but also your kindness, your humor, your generosity, and your compassion. These qualities combine to create the best version of yourself. The problem is, it’s hard to offer your gifts when you are overworked, overtired, and overwhelmed. It’s difficult to apply your full self to a task, a moment, or an experience in those three-minute increments.
Productivity is about directing your activities to achieve the things that are most important to you. Attention management is the logical path to get you there. In my next post, I will define attention management in greater detail. You will discover how to use attention management to reach your full potential.