The reality of stay-at-home orders, remote work, and being constantly bombarded by news of how bad things can get has taken its toll on us all. For many of us, one detrimental result is that we’ve struggled more than ever to find the focus we need to be productive. The practice of attention management has become more important than ever, not just for our productivity, but for our peace of mind.
Practicing attention management is about maintaining control of where your attention goes, and recognizing when it’s being stolen, either by external distractions or internal errant thoughts, rumination, or anxiety. Finding time for deep focus, reducing digital distractions, and fighting the constant deluge of app toggling and notification checking all play a role in practicing attention management. Fortunately, there are simple steps anyone can take to regain control of your focus and productivity.
1. Take control of your notifications
Chances are you don’t need to receive a ping every time your mom likes a Facebook post. The same goes for every time a team member asks a question or gives a status update. Opting out of notifications breaks the “always-on” mindset that we constantly need to be available and reactive to others. To avoid continued disruption, we suggest turning off all but the most critical notifications—whether from a specific person or related to a particular project. You’ll find yourself less distracted and overwhelmed by notifications.
2. Timebox distractions
Research has shown many times over that taking small breaks during the day actually improves productivity. The trick is making sure your quick recess doesn’t turn into an entire afternoon. To keep yourself accountable, we recommend setting aside specific time blocks for non-work activities like checking the news or scrolling through social feeds. When the time block ends, close any apps or browser windows you opened so you can get back to the work at hand.
3. Follow a “less-is-more” approach on social media
When’s the last time you went through your list of social followers and follows? Practicing good social media hygiene is one of the easiest ways to cut down on unwanted distractions no matter where you are. If an account is no longer providing valuable content, unfollow it. Conversely, if there are accounts that provide a ton of helpful links and information, follow them to ensure your content feeds are worthwhile. If you’re feeling extra bold, maybe even consider deleting accounts on platforms you don’t use any more.