However, in the modern era of today with computers and the web, the easy accessibility to information is creating another issue. People are being bombarded with abundant information and the human brain cannot digest it all. This is causing the rise of another scarce resource -ATTENTION – as there is only a specific length of time a person can have mental concentration on any activity. We may not realize it, but the fact remains that we all have a limited supply of attention and yet the demands put on it from the constant stream of information from electronic media, social media, the internet and other sources are becoming enormous.
Ultimately, there is only a certain amount of information that the human brain can process and focus on. Some scientists say that in fact, it is only one task at a time. So what really matters is not how we plan our time and activities but where and how we focus our mental energy to obtain the results we desire.
Most people say that they do not have the time but the fact remains that we all have the same amount of time in a day. What does that tell us ? The thinking may arise that time management does not work. The actual thing is that all of us allocate our time in different ways as we all have different priorities in our lives. In my opinion a mixture of these work best as we require mental concentration as well as, need to be aware of the time we are spending on an activity to be productive and successful in our pursuits.
However, in todays world allocating our time to a particular activity does not guarantee that we will be able to give it the required attention due to the constant interruptions and disturbances which may occur. It is therefore essential that we make a switch from time management to attention management.
If one prioritizes the people and the activities in our life that matter and then learn to focus on them, it will not matter how long any activity takes. This is where and how Attention management comes into play. Attention management can be defined as the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, at the right time and in the right situation.
Since the concept of Attention Management is a relatively new one, we may not be able to identify all the behaviours that are present in it. However, some of the key behaviours include concentration, focus, presence of mind, flow as well as day-dreaming. When we identify the behaviours we require and then practice these we make a conscious shift to focusing on them and maximizing our results. Learning to manage our attention also calms us, keeps us in control of the situation and we feel more satisfied and fulfilled in our life.
In an article by Maura Thomas on making a mental shift to improve productivity, she has exhibited a diagram displaying the 4 quadrants of Attention management for productivity. It is interesting to note that the quadrants determine how much control a person has over their attention and how much focus they can generate as a result of this. The quadrants are :
- REACTIVE AND DISTRACTED – In this quadrant we are multitasking and trying to get too many things done at the same time.
- DAYDREAMING – Here we are letting our mind wander without much external stimulus restoring our brain.
- FOCUSED & MINDFUL – This quadrant is where we are fully present and actively avoiding distraction. We work hard on maintaining our attention for an extended period of time.
- FLOW – Being focused and mindful helps our brain slip into a Flow where we are paying full attention and become fully absorbed in our activity.
In order to make a shift from one mental state to another, deliberate action needs to be taken. This can be done by taking a short break, doing something else, interacting with a colleague or any other activity and coming back refreshed and clear in your mind on what needs to be done. To be more focused and mindful of ones objectives, a time frame needs to be set, with clear priorities. It is important to eliminate all distractions and set boundaries on routine work to free up time to get high priority work completed.
In conclusion, if you are trying to increase your productivity, do not analyze how you are spending your time, and instead focus on what consumes your attention. It is deep focus that leads to high quality results and increased productivity.