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To Control Your Life, Control What You Pay Attention To

Attention Management

It's is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so you can create a life of choice, around things that are important to you.

It is the ability to recognize when your attention is being stolen (or has the potential to be stolen) and to instead keep it focused on the activities you choose. 

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To Control Your Life, Control What You Pay Attention To

To Control Your Life, Control What You Pay Attention To

https://hbr.org/2018/03/to-control-your-life-control-what-you-pay-attention-to

hbr.org

5

Key Ideas

William James

William James

“My experience is what I agree to attend to.”

Attention Management

It's is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so you can create a life of choice, around things that are important to you.

It is the ability to recognize when your attention is being stolen (or has the potential to be stolen) and to instead keep it focused on the activities you choose. 

Choosing What You Attend To

Attention management offers a deliberate approach that puts you back in control, by managing both external and internal factors.

Practicing attention management means fighting back against the distractions and creating opportunities throughout your day to support your priorities. 

Controlling External Factors

  • Control your technology: it’s there to serve you, not the other way around. As often as possible and especially when you’re working, keep your phone silent and out of sight.
  • Control your environment. Set boundaries with others, especially in an open-office setting. For example, use headphones or put up a “do not disturb” sign when you need to focus.

Controlling Internal Factors

  • Control your behavior: for example, open only one window on your computer screen, and give your full attention to one task until it’s complete, or until a designated stopping point. 
  • Control your thoughts: practice noticing when your mind is veering off in its own direction, and gently guide your focus back to where you want it. 

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

What's Most Important To You
Before you can set your priorities, you need to figure out exactly what they are. 

"You have limited time and energy, so you need to determine what your top two priorities are at any giv...

Create An Action Plan

Take a few moments to create a plan of where you would like to see yourself in the next couple of months or years. 

Align those dreams with your priorities to help you focus on making your wishes come true. 

Designate Specific Time Slots For Tasks

It's important to remember to set time aside for things that truly matter to you. 

Whatever it is, you won't feel fulfilled if you constantly put other things before your own happiness.

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Get Your Life In Order (GYLIO)

Many of us battle with the never-ending nature of our to-do lists. We feel overwhelmed because life admin is endless and invisible.

We can tackle this issue through GYLIO practices. In essen...

Get back on track

GYLIO is a way for students to approach their problems with juggling so many opportunities colleges offer, from sport and culture to volunteering and leadership.
A week to 'take a breath' and get things done is essential. The list will look different for everyone. When parts of your life that you are usually on top of begin to fall apart, it is time to take a day or week out and attend to the little things.

Divided focus

Having multiple tasks on your mind splits your attention and that can reduce overall performance. This is known as "attention residue."
While we can't eliminate distractions from our lives, we can create a "ready to resume list" and plan a return to the task.

2 more ideas

William James

“Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

William James
The 2 kinds of distractions
  • Sensory distractions (External): The things happening around us, like colleagues talking, phones ringing, people moving around us, music playing, etc.
  • Emotional distractions (Internal): The thoughts that make our attention drift from what we’re doing. For example, remembering a phone call you need to make or thinking about a future meeting.
Daniel Goleman
Daniel Goleman

“It’s not the chatter of people around us that is the most powerful distractor, but rather the chatter of our own minds.”

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Understand Your Performance Evaluation

Find out if your performance evaluation is according to what you understand. Identify your goals and key performance indicators with your manager, and discuss accordingly.

Solve your Blind Spots

Ask for feedback, learn from it and adjust your performance (or behavior) according to the areas of improvement that you get to know from others.

Example: After giving a presentation, talk about what went well and ask if there is something that you could have done better.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal with a record of your learnings and feedback (areas of improvement) can keep us on the right path, and speed up our progress, and learning too.

Listing out 5 or 10 areas of improvement and tracking the progress in weekly or monthly reviews is a great way to develop your career.

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Good and bad meetings
  • Done right, meetings provide an excellent structure for getting work done, making decisions, and moving projects forward. 
  • Done incorrectly, meetings keep you from focus...
Eliminate
  • Don’t schedule meetings: The answer to every issue or to moving ahead every project isn’t scheduling a meeting. 
  • Don’t attend meetings: You don’t have to accept every meeting invite you receive. Go to and be fully present at meetings where you have something to contribute or learn.
  • Don’t agree to meetings requests from people you don't know: If you think a meeting is necessary, schedule it yourself.
Reduce
  • Reduce frequency: Not all meetings need to be weekly. Reduce them to however often you need to stay on track.
  • Reduce length: Your default could be 30 minutes or 45 minutes.
  • Reduce drive-by meetings: Informal meetings can be valuable. But they can also be overwhelming when they take up the very limited amount of time you have between scheduled meetings.

one more idea

Oliver Emberton
"The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency."
Oliver Emberton
Important vs. urgent tasks
  • Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals.
  • Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately: phone calls, urgent deadlines, and situations where you have to respond quickly.

Sometimes important tasks stare you right in the face, but you neglect them and respond to urgent but unimportant things.

Don't be available all the time

Time, not money, is your most valuable asset. Invest your asset:

  • Allocate time to each task you need to get done every day. 
  • Each task of the day should be attainable, realistic, and time-bound. And it should advance your goals for the day, week or month.
  • Don't get distracted by everything others expect you to do.

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Minimalizing Your Life

To minimize your life is choosing to live by design, not by default. You decide where to allocate your time, focus, and efforts.

Socrates
Socrates
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Why Minimizing Your Life

What minimizing your life will bring you:

  • More Efficiency: You finally have enough time to do what’s truly important.
  • More Time: Owning and doing things carry high costs. Doing less frees up your time to focus on the essential few.
  • Less Stress: No more overloaded schedules, running from one place to the next, always rushing.
  • Better Health: having and doing less calms your mind and brings clarity.
  • Freedom: things don’t own you anymore, you only own things you love. 

4 more ideas

Boredom is unused potential

Boredom is a disconnection to everything we can offer the world and vice versa. It's not influenced by external simulation, it's actually an indicator of how you engage with the world.

Boredom is a social disease

Ages ago, when people were busy trying to survive, boredom wasn’t a choice. They spent all their time securing food or shelter.

We are now overstimulated — easy access to infinite entertainment options is feeding boredom rather than discouraging it.

Embracing busyness to escape boredom

People embrace busyness  because they are having a hard time being alone and enjoying it

Being busy is a tricky form of entertainment however — we don’t feel the boredom, but it isn’t fun either.

3 more ideas

Time blocking
Time blocking

It's the practice of planning out every moment of your day in advance and dedicating specific time “blocks” for certain tasks and responsibilities.

When you fill your c...

Time blocking and focus

By scheduling every minute of your day you not only guard against distraction but also multiply your focus.

Also, focusing on one task at a time can make you up to 80% more productive than splitting your attention across multiple tasks.

Cons of the time blocking practice
  • It takes a lot of time and effort.
  • Few of us (if any) have the same schedule every day.
  • We’re bad at estimating how long tasks will take to do.
  • Constant interruptions and “urgent” tasks can destroy your system.
  • Flexibility is key in most workplaces.
  • You can lose sight of the bigger picture if you focus just on each day.

2 more ideas