Why attention management is your new best friend

Why attention management is your new best friend

Published on 27th September, 2019 at 03:36 pm

Chasing the clock is seen as the golden ticket to getting more done, but could it be that hankering after more time is actually making us lose time? Enter: attention management. Shifting your focus to attention, instead of time, could help you master your to-do list, not by ticking things off faster, but by adjusting what, and how, you tick.

What is attention management?

“In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes,” said economist and Nobel laureate Herbert A Simon in 1971. “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

The brain cannot process all of the information thrown at us, so it compensates by slacking off on attention. We need to get back to controlling it. “Attention management is working with intent, working proactively, maximising your focus and being present in the moment,” says Jo’burg executive coach Dr Marlet Tromp. “To give your full attention to the task at hand means not only finishing the task to tick it off your list, but to finish the task with improved results.”

Attention management vs time management

“Time management is managing your time to be able to get tasks done in a reasonable time. The focus is on completing the task and not on giving it the attention it needs,” Dr Tromp explains. Attention management involves giving each task the focus it needs to be completed, without distractions. “This leads to improved productivity, better-quality work and self-empowerment. When giving attention to a task, the information retained improves and the experience of the task is truly felt,” she adds.

Attention management may mean that you complete fewer tasks – but you will complete the most important tasks thoroughly. Effective attention management involves prioritising certain tasks, and delaying or delegating those that would not make the best use of your focused attention. Find out here how you can save yourself time and money so you can focus your attention on the tasks that need it most.

How to manage your attention

  • Minimise distractions. This includes social media notifications and talkative colleagues. Don’t give yourself excuses to be sidetracked, and give the task your full attention. Without these distractions, you’ll likely find it’s completed faster than you planned. This goes for kids too – find out the benefits of limiting their time spent on digital devices here.
  • Set boundaries when you’re busy with a task by being assertive with colleagues or family. Decline meetings and politely say no to passers-by who’d like to chat.
  • Turn off your phone or put it on silent – not vibrate.
  • Close your office door, find a quiet spot to work or wear headphones.
  • Do one thing at a time. You cannot concentrate on your finance spreadsheet while watching TV, scanning the news, and replying to a WhatsApp group chat. One thing at a time!
  • Meditate. Use an app like Calm. “Mindfulness training is one method to learn to be in the moment and work towards giving your full attention to the task at hand,” advises Dr Tromp. Perhaps start your day with 10 minutes of meditation.

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