A Productivity Expert's Common-Sense Solutions for Mastering Your Finite Attention
Now, what can you do right now to harness the finite nature of your attention?
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Optimize the physiological conditions necessary for ideal attention management. You want to create an environment that supports your unique attention management needs and minimizes the impact of the hardwiring of your brain. If you are tired, hungry, or stressed you are fighting an uphill battle with your attention. Guess who is always going to win – your brain!
+ Keep packets of nuts, granola bars, or dried fruit in your office drawer, pocket book, briefcase, and/or glove compartment of your car to stay properly fueled for maximum focus.
+ Create a playlist of soothing and energizing music to help you relax or recharge after stressful interactions and conversations.
+ Keep comfortable shoes in your desk drawer or in your car or work bag so you can go for a quick walk up and down the halls of your office building or outside your office building.
+Physical movement is one of the most effective ways to mentally reset and discharge negative energy. And you do not have to walk long to benefit – ten minutes is all it takes.
Optimize the physiological conditions required for you to manage your attention, and you should be able to boost your sense of focus.
Retrain your brain using a brain reboot. Refocusing is hard because we have trained our brains to work on a variety of things at one time. How often have you checked email during a conference call or fed your child breakfast, unloaded the dishwasher, and packed lunches at the same time? This habit does not improve your productivity; instead, it undermines your ability to focus. By rebooting your brain, you are rewiring it for optimal functioning.
To reboot your brain:
Visualize a reset button in your brain and say, “I need to hit reboot and get back on track.” This takes the spotlight off the distraction and forces you to refocus on your task.
Use specific breathing techniques.
+ Take a deep inhalation breath, pushing out your navel, and then powerfully expelling the air by slightly bringing in your stomach. Repeat this breath five to seven times and observe how the tension and mental chatter in your mind dissipates.
+ Another breath that also short circuits your mental chatter is to place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and blow out as if you were blowing out candles on a birthday cake. As you blow out, count to seven. You can now regain your focus.
Tate says taking a good hard look at all the things you assume you "should" do and question why they're so important. By seeing beyond the veneer of our "shoulds," we can better understand when it's best to say, "Yes," and when it benefits us to say, "No."
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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