Your experience determines your life and your experience could be controlled by controlling what gets your attention. You have to consciously choose what gets your attention to control your life. To practice attention management, you need to combat distractions and create opportunities during the day to focus on your priorities. Start with control of outside factors:
Never forget this, technology is there to serve you, not the other way around! Decide to take control by turning off emails and push notifications specifically designed to steal your attention. This way, you can focus more on the tasks and activities you choose. Keep your phone quiet and out of sight as often as possible, especially when you’re working.
Control your environment
Set boundaries with others, especially in an open environment. You can use headphones or put up a “do not disturb” sign when you need to focus. If that doesn’t work, move to another place in your office. If distractions are terrible, you can try teaming up with colleagues to set a specific time of the day for quiet work, a period without distractions for anyone.
We also have to think about an often-overlooked truth: Our productivity suffers not only because we’re hampered by external interruptions but also because our own brains, numbed by today’s crazy jobs, become a source of disruption.
For example, the problem isn’t just that your email interrupts your work. The fact is that when you’re tied to an email inbox, you expect to be interrupted every few minutes, which draws your attention. Then you’re so afraid you’ll forget to do a small task – like sending an email or forwarding a document – that you’ll do it all as soon as you remember. But then you crawl into a cluttered box before you know it.
Besides, knowing that a catalog of all the world’s knowledge is at your fingertips – the Internet on a smartphone – makes it difficult to feel comfortable in an “I don’t know” state, and it’s difficult to avoid temptations that distract you.
You also need to learn to control your internal factors.
Manage your behavior:
- Take advantage of those times when your technology is tamed and your “do not disturb” sign is used to focus on a task: Open only one window on your computer screen and pay attention to a job until it is finished or until a specific stop is reached.
- Take breaks during the day away from your computer. As often as possible, try to turn off technology entirely for at least an hour or more. Try for 15 to 20 minutes in the beginning, then build up to an hour or even 90 minutes.
Manage your thoughts:
- This is the hardest thing to achieve. The mind is made to wander. Practice noticing when your mind turns in its direction and gently redirect your focus back to where you want it. If you think of an important little task while you are doing focused work, write it down and come back later. The same rule applies to information you want to look up online.
Practicing attention management won’t remove the distractions from your day. But by recognizing when you become a nuisance and building your “attention muscle” through habits like the ones above, you will begin to take back your life and devote more time to what matters to you.
Don’t allow distraction to uproot your intentions. Control your attention to control your life.