With the changing times we have also seen the emergence of more and more avenues/sources of content creation and consumption. Can you imagine a world without Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp’s/maps/blogs sites etc.? There is a plethora of avenues and an unimaginable quantum of data for us to consume. The information out there is no longer passive, it is constantly demanding our attention. In a world filled with so many distractions, how does one concentrate on the task at hand?
The various social media channels, forums and apps ensure we are constantly tuned in to what is going on in the world. At any given time of the day, there we are, with one hand on the laptop keyboard, the other holding a cellphone, one eye on the work we are doing, the other simultaneously reading all the notifications popping up. Thus, this constant flow of information makes it hard for us to completely focus on the task at hand. In fact, even if there isn’t a notification, there’s always the expectation for one. In November 2016, in a post called The Binge Breaker, The Atlantic observed: “Messages, photos, and ‘likes’ appear on no set schedule, so we check for them compulsively, never sure when we’ll receive that dopamine-activating prize.”
With our thoughts racing all over the place, we end up not being able to efficiently achieve what is most meaningful to us. More often than not, in a bid to respond to everything as it comes up, we end up forgetting a number of important things.
Here is where attention management comes in. Attention management translates to taking the reigns of our attention back in our hands, resisting distraction, deciding what we pay attention to and being present in the moment. In fact, it’s much more than avoiding distractions, it’s about being able to choose what deserves your time and attention.
How do we go about exercising attention management in our everyday lives?
Be proactive instead of reactive:
A proactive approach involves actively creating opportunities throughout the day that help us focus on our priorities. Begin your task with a single-handed focus, understand your priorities, your goals, and accordingly learn to recognise when you are about to veer off from the task at hand. If you are reminded of anything minor while working, you could jot it down and come back to it later.
We continuously receive alerts from various sources, be it texts, news snippets or email. Of all these alerts, filtering only what is important can help us avoid getting distracted frequently.
Turn off push notifications, badges and sounds that aren’t of importance, as often as possible and especially when working. This will help you minimize interruptions and focus on work for longer stretches.
Chalk out clearly the tasks you wish to accomplish each day, in order of priority. This should help you decide what to focus on and concentrate single-mindedly on that one task without getting distracted. As Brian Tracy writes in his book ‘Eat That Frog’, the key to being productive and overcoming procrastination is to start your day with the biggest, most
important and most dreaded task of the day, persist at it until it’s done, and do it well.
Control your environment:
Ensure the environment around you aids you in being able to pay attention to what you choose, and not get swayed by external factors. Open a single tab when necessary, mute unnecessary notifications, use headphones and if that doesn’t work, you could try going to a more silent area in the office.
Distractions will always be present, and keep increasing as the world around us advances. In such a scenario, learning to recognize what to avoid and what to focus on will go a long way in helping us be more productive, be present in the moment, and devote more time and attention to what’s really meaningful for us.
Here’s hoping this article had all your attention! If you’d like more, we have also put together a curated list of self-help books to help boost productivity and personal as well as professional growth.