In today’s digital world, the attention economy is booming. The multitude of things competing for space in our consciousness in a day is ever increasing. From advertising messages across a myriad platforms and channels to entertainment options to social media, email, mobile apps and games, there’s never been a time in history when our minds have been more flooded with information. How do we even begin to filter what’s important from all that is not, when technology constantly pushes notifications and messages our way?
If you’re anything like me, distraction is a part of daily existence. Often the to-do list I start out with at the beginning of a day remains untouched at the end of it because of the endless stream of information, questions, urgent requests, and interruptions that flood each day. My attention span seems to be constantly reduced in capacity and I need to actively manage myself to keep myself focused on the task at hand. It’s a tiring endeavor!
Zig Ziglar once said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days.” With this in mind, here are 5 ways we can all try to effectively manage the distractions we face on a daily basis.
- Set Goals
- Knowing what we to need to achieve helps us to clarify and prioritize our time effectively. The highest value tasks are where we should be spending the majority of our time and energy.
- Avoid Multitasking.
- Multitasking is the biggest misconception. There is just no way we can be at our best when we’re trying to do more than one thing at a time. Close your email app or program, switch your mobile phone to silent and set a block of time aside for one specific task and set your intention and focus solely on that task.
- Clear Your Clutter.
Clutter comes in many forms, but for the purposes of this blog, I’m referring to physical and mental clutter. Firstly, clearing and organizing your workspace reduces the likelihood of you becoming distracted, minimizes anxiety and helps your focus to stay on track. When it comes to dealing with mental clutter, write down everything that needs to be done. This way, you have a list of tasks that can be prioritized and tackled systematically. Creating rituals is another way of managing mental clutter – I have a focused morning routine of meditation and gratitude journaling each day that I follow before I look at any digital device. This helps me to be really focused on the things that really matter. Take some time to define what would work for you personally and try to implement this consistently.
- Know Yourself.
- I know that I operate best earlier in the day, so ensuring that I have my priorities lined up to tackle first thing helps me to be more efficient. But some people are at their prime late at night. Whatever your optimal productive time window is, use it as effectively as possible by being organized and maintaining your focus during this time.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Take A Break.
The Pomodoro method of time management builds infrequent breaks in order to keep a task on track. There are six steps in the original technique:
Decide on the task to be done.
Set a timer for yourself (traditionally 25-45 minutes, depending on the task).
Work on the task.
End work when the timer sounds and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
Learning to manage your attention will lead to more effective management and use of your time every day. Be intentional about what you give your attention to every day and be ruthless about cutting the rest of what’s competing for your attention out completely. This will differentiate you from the rat race and set you up for success.
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