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How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Attention management

Levels of attention

  • Proactive attention: you are fully focused and prepared for your most important decisions/ most complex tasks.
  • Active attention: you're plugged in, but also easily distracted.
  • Inactive attention: you're likely to really struggle with complex or difficult tasks.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Attention management

How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Attention management

https://zapier.com/blog/productivity-ninja-attention-management/

zapier.com

6

Key Ideas

Boss-mode vs worker-mode

Knowledge workers usually have to play 2 roles at the same time - the boss and the worker: They have to choose what their work is (boss-mode) and they have to do the actual work (work-mode), for example.

This situation has the potential to create conflict and lead to indecision about which role should have their attention at different times of the day.

    Limited attention

    Your attention is a limited resource and you have to be careful where you are spending it.
    If you choose to give away 80 percent of your attention to meetings, you will have 20 percent of your attention just for dealing with a few emails feeling overwhelmed.

    Levels of attention

    • Proactive attention: you are fully focused and prepared for your most important decisions/ most complex tasks.
    • Active attention: you're plugged in, but also easily distracted.
    • Inactive attention: you're likely to really struggle with complex or difficult tasks.

    Schedule your work

    ... based on your attention level.
    Save difficult and important task for when your attention level is proactive, leave the intense but easier stuff for those active attention times, and try to save up the easy or dull stuff for when you're capable of little else.

    Fixes for your attention management issues

    • Make tiny changes to trick your brain and create additional periods of attention (for example, move to a different part of the room every hour).
    • Keep moving and switch tasks every 30-60 minutes.
    • Get outside and go for a quick walk.

    Extra pockets of attention

    • Take advantage of the periods when you're walking somewhere and make some phone calls. You can use your desk time for other tasks.
    • Keep both a physical and a digital file of reading materials. Take advantage of the time spent commuting or in the waiting rooms for your doctor's appointments.
    • Have a thinking list with big decisions for when you are driving or waiting in line for example.
    • Instead of talking via email with your co-workers, invite them for a coffee.

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    Unimportant tasks are really just distractions

    Urgent but unimportant tasks = distractions.

    Urgent tasks put us into constant “reply mode.” Important work is related to planned tasks that move us closer to our goals.

    Interruptions break your flow

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    Interruptions (notifications, loud noises, social media, checking email etc.) harm your concentration.

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    Cal Newport on time management
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  • Ask your boss how much time they want you spending on deep vs shallow work: If they say “100% shallow”, feel free to ignore everything above.
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    Also, delay the conversation if you’re in a meeting or other public space. Discussing the issue in private will make the powerful person feel less threatened.

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    You can use a physical notebook around everywhere you go, but it's easier to use a to-do list app or tool that syncs across all your devices. That way, you can access your to-do items whenever and wherever you need to, whether you're at your desk, in a meeting, or on a business trip.

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