Know Your Productivity Style to Manage Your Attention at Work

Your personal Productivity Style is your approach to planning and allocating effort across goals, activities, and time periods.


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“Hey, do you have a minute?”

“Not sure if you’re through your email yet, but can you join that call at 11am?”

“How was vacation? Did you see that email from John?”  

“Hey, um, glad you’re back, know you’re settling back in, but can I run an idea by you real quick?”

Throughout our workdays, we are consistently and constantly interrupted. Between various technological devices, colleagues, meetings, emergencies, and even boredom, we are forced to control and manage incessant demands on our attention.

And we’re never more aware of it than those first couple of days when you’re back from vacation. We go from hearing ocean waves, the tap of our fingers on our e-readers, laughter – to pings, rings, and buzzes.

What we focus on determines our experience, knowledge, amusement and fulfillment. Yet, instead of cultivating this resource, we're squandering it on whatever captures our attention.

There’s no better time than now – the first couple of days back from vacation – to push back against the plague of distractions and interruptions.  And to do this, you have to manage your attention. Distractions and interruptions significantly undermine our ability to focus, engage, be productive, and achieve your goals – all things you got really clear on while on vacation.

So my first question for you is this: on a daily basis, what is managing your attention?

Humans are the sum of what they pay attention to, asserts Winifred Gallagher in her book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. What we focus on determines our experience, knowledge, amusement and fulfillment.  Yet, instead of cultivating this resource, we're squandering it on whatever captures our attention. (They key word there is our.)

Your personal Productivity Style is your approach to planning and allocating effort across goals, activities, and time periods.

If we really want and need to minimize the impact of distractions and manage our attention, then we need some strategies for us – and us is personal.

So, what works for you?

This is where your personal Productivity type comes into play. 

Your personal Productivity Style is your approach to planning and allocating effort across goals, activities, and time periods.  This approach is usually unconscious and unsystematic rather than deliberate and rational.  Nonetheless, patterns can be detected, which generally grow out of your individual cognitive style—your habitual pattern or preferred way of perceiving, processing, and managing information to guide behavior. Since everyone has a distinctive cognitive style, you also have a distinct Productivity Style.

For example, do you prefer to use color to keep track of and manage your tasks? Do you work better in the morning, afternoon or evening? Do you find that you do your best work when you are collaborating and working with others? Or do you do your best work when you are working from a highly detailed, structured project plan? What have you found that works for you? If you want to manage your attention at work, you must personalize your productivity and select the tools and strategies that are in alignment with your Productivity Style. One size never fits all.

* * *

Carson Tate is author of the book Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. She is creator of the "Working Smarter, Not Harder" and "Harness the Productive Power of Your Brain" productivity systems. Tate holds a BA in psychology from Washington and Lee University, a Masters in Organization Development, and a Coaching Certificate from the McColl School of Business at Queens University.

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