The key to productivity could be changing your focus from time management to learning to master your attention. Showing gratitude may boost your emotions—and your immune system. Sometimes you need to hit the pause button to refocus and re-energize. Here are some tips from the experts:
Manage your attention. Want to be more productive? You may need to reframe your thinking. Rather than trying to manage your time more efficiently, focus on mastering your attention—making a conscious decision about when, and on what, you choose to concentrate. And that starts with understanding the four quadrants of attention.
- Reactive and distracted—you may be trying to focus, but you’re still at the mercy of small distractions: email notifications, hunger pangs, interruptions from people stopping by to chat.
- Focused and mindful—you are actively concentrating and centering all your attention on the task at hand, taking steps to ensure you will not be disturbed.
- Daydreaming—while you aren’t directing your attention anywhere in particular, you are actively resisting distractions. These little pockets of time help you find insight, have new ideas and let your creativity out.
- Flow—you are deeply focused and totally absorbed in what you are doing (i.e., in the zone).
Attention management is being able to recognize which of these categories you are currently in and then consciously shifting to the stage that will best serve you in the moment. If you need to get work done but keep getting interrupted, the best thing to do is set boundaries and control your environment. Tell people you need some interruption-free time to focus, and consider choosing a “don’t bother me” signal as a reminder—put up a Do Not Disturb sign, put on headphones, close the door to your office.
To create a truly distraction-free environment, you also need to control your technology. That means going offline or at least turning off your notifications so every ping, ring and banner doesn’t snatch your attention.
Source: “Forget Time Management—Attention Management Is the Better Path to Productivity,” Real Simple, June 18, 2020
Show gratitude. Research shows that grateful people experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better and even have stronger immune systems.
How can you become more grateful?
- Be present in the moment. Be aware of your breathing, sense your body and really take note of the world around you.
- Try to appreciate the little things you often take for granted or overlook (e.g., the taste of chocolate or the feel of a plush blanket).
- Be kind to yourself—treat yourself the way you would a good friend and silence that negative voice.
- Take the time to thank others.There are a lot of people providing service for you on a regular basis—store clerks, waitresses, delivery people.
- Give back—donate to a charity, volunteer for a nonprofit, offer to mentor someone.
- At the end of each day, write down at least three things that made you feel grateful that day.
Source: “How to Find Thanks and Gratitude,” Jesse Lyn Stoner on Leadership, November 2019
Take a pause. Human beings aren’t meant to go full speed all the time. Sometimes you need to hit the pause button.
Taking regular breaks during the work day and going on vacation can help you refresh and re-energize. Counting to 10 before you act can give you time to process your thoughts and emotions—and could keep you from making a rash decision.
Source: “The Power of the Pause,” Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership, Sept. 3, 2020