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Crushing it: Attention Management

  • By Ryan Skidmore

Time management is dead, Long live Attention Management

Time Management, as a concept, was crafted in an age when there was still time over to place activities. (Life Hacker) Now every second of the day is, or can be, filled. Social media and the Internet can swallow whole the precious thoughts and energy of not only adolescence, but also professionals for whom attention is how project get finish and money gets made. Now, attention is the currency and managing it plays by a different set of rules.

Time Blocks

Have set blocks of time to complete one deep, complex task. Avoid multitasking. To truly perform a task well, it requires a deep attention that cannot be summoned while trying to perform two or more things simultaneously. (Forbes) Multitasking reduces you overall capacity to perform and leaves a drained feeling without a worthy result. (Forbes) Have a game plan before starting the time block. Creating a plan helps avoid going down rabbit trails unrelated to the core task. (The Balance) It sets an expectation for what can and should be accomplished in that time span. (The Balance) Trying to do too much or getting too little done are both equally devastating. Setting a proper path gives a true measure of how long the project will take. Lastly, signal when the time block is done. First, set an exact or an approximate time for when it’s done depending on your work style and the task. Two to five hours is typically how long a single session on a single task will remain productive. Second, set an approximate amount of progress that needs to be made in the session. Create a gauge to measure for success. Did the session succeed or fail to hit its target? If everything went well do the same thing for the next session. This technique can be applied to telematics also. Using a GPS tracking system to reduce operating costs is a complex project. Make no mistake. Once telematics works its magic, your business benefits indefinitely.

Reduce Distractions

This rule applies for work sessions and in general for working hours. Only work on one thing. Multitasking leads to more distraction, because multitasking creates undue stress on the brain and creates transition periods when the brain moves from one task to another. (Coschedule) Reduce the chance for any interruptions. After a large interruption, the brain can take up to 23 minutes to fully return to the task. (Fast Company) Put head phones in. Shut your office door. Tell your coworkers to email you if they need something. Stay singular for the remainder of your work session. Turn off notifications. Close Outlook. Forget vibrate, put your phone on silent. Unless you’re an ER doctor or something equally as critical, it can wait. Being Always-Available, Always-On sabotages your long-term success over months and years, because work interrupted, distracted work is subpar. No “Distracted Noodling”. (Life Hacker) For the remainder of your work session stay out of Facebook and your email inbox, because choosing to navigate away from the Task is equally as devastating as interruptions from a colleague or a notification. For an example of how this can be put into action, schedule reports in your telematics portal for a certain time to review them. During a work session, turn off all notifications. You’ll see everything later when the session is done. Using a GPS tracking system will allow you to focus on what is really important and keep you focus.

Thinkers

Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work” spells out how to accomplish undistracted work sessions. With techniques and stories of start up founder that use similar methods to accomplish more, it’s a great place to start. Also, Maura Thomas, a researcher and promoter of “Attention Management”, has a TED Talk on her website, attentionmanagement.com, introducing the pillars of the titular subject.

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