As discussed yesterday, effectively managing external distractions is among the most important attention management strategies. What’s equally as important to improving your productivity with attention management is controlling internal distractions.
You are actually the source of many demands, when your thoughts interrupt and distract you with curiosity about unanswered questions, thrill seeking/socializing/what-am-I-missing syndrome, incomplete tasks, commitments, responsibilities, uncaptured ideas, and things you aren’t doing now. Many people are unable to sleep because they cannot silence their overstimulated brain. This is a symptom of these constant internal demands—the mental gymnastics we do daily in order to keep our busy lives flowing smoothly, to get everything done, to not let anything slip through the cracks, and to not drop any of the balls we’re trying to juggle. Mental stress is a main contributor to the pressures of life that busy people experience—that underlying anxiety about all the things you are not doing, whether it’s an expense report, the laundry, or starting that new business.
If you always take immediate action on whatever thought pops into your head, you’re not in control of your attention and you are not making the best use of your time. Here’s the truth about controlling the internal distractions: you can only manage what you can see, and you can only see what is outside your head. And it’s only effective to have things outside your head, if they are in one centralized location that you can trust and refer to as necessary. Random lists on paper aren’t very helpful, nor are thoughts scribbled on sticky notes, cocktail napkins or the backs of envelopes.
Regain Control: Attention Management Strategy
One of the most common mistakes I see people making with regard to their productivity is the lack of a good task list where they can store, organize, and act upon all of the things they need or want to do. If you aren’t making good use of a good to-do list tool (I suggest an electronic tool rather than a paper one), then you’re missing one of the easiest attention management strategies. That’s one of the simplest changes you can make toward better control over your attention and therefore improved productivity.
Section 2 of my book, Personal Productivity Secrets is devoted to controlling internal distractions.
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Click here for the third post: Meditation