Have you ever set a schedule for your entire day and then only managed to accomplish a fraction of your tasks? It happens to the best of us. Time management is a valued skill in our work and personal lives. We’re encouraged to stuff as much as we can into one day.
I don’t know about you, but when I place a time limit on my daily tasks, I disappoint myself more often than not. So instead of trying to manage my time, I draw out all that productivity and creative juice by managing something else: my attention.
All the time in the world probably won’t matter if your focus isn’t directed to the task at hand, so check out these tips to learn how to better manage your attention skills.
Learn to Control Your Distractions
You’d be hard-pressed to find a work environment that’s entirely distraction free. It can be even more challenging to calm a mind that’s prone to wandering thoughts and worries. You might have the best intentions, but then other things come along and derail your attention. Before you know it, the week is over, and you’ve only accomplished a fraction of what you set out to do.
Work on improving your focus. Forbes recommends setting a specific goal, recognizing when your mind starts to go off the rails and scheduling breaks when you need to. It takes practice, but you can do it.
Pay Attention to the “Why?”
When my brain doesn’t respond to, “I have to get this thing done in X amount of time,” I find sometimes a better strategy is to stop and think about why I’m doing it. The reason so many people fail to be productive is that they’re doing things for productivity’s sake rather than looking at the bigger picture. So ask yourself, why does what you’re doing matter to you?
Productivity is less about the amount of time you have on your hands and more about how much you care about your task. Setting strict time limits puts more pressure on you and tends to suck away creativity. If you instead place the focus on your purpose, you’re much more likely to get it done faster and more effectively.
Determine Your Most Productive Times
Have you ever noticed there are certain times of day when you get more accomplished than others? That’s the principle behind this attention skill: using your own habits and most creative times to your advantage.
I usually come up with my best ideas in the evening. This means I set aside time for creative work during the evening hours. Knowing yourself and being intentional about your schedule is your biggest asset.
For example, instead of planning to write a big report at a random time next week, try scheduling it when you know you can devote all your attention to it. Then you’ll be able to make time for easier tasks during those less productive times and make the most of your day.
Trying to manage your time might only get you so far when your brain decides it’s time to go in twenty different directions rather than focus on your daily tasks. What matters more is your attention and how you choose to use it. These three tips can help you take control of your productivity and become more deliberate in your actions. If your brain decides to cooperate, it could be the start of a beautiful partnership.
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