Time management doesn’t really work for most of us. Sure, we can plan out our day, but then life intrudes at every turn and by the end of it the day is done and if we have check off anything on the list, we consider ourselves lucky.
So what do we do? According to Maura Thomas, we can plan the day just fine; we are horrible about managing the distractions that crop up. As she quotes William James, the author of a 19th century tome, The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1, he states simply; “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” In other words, if you can control the distractions, you can control your project. Or even, your life.
When working with “Attention Management”, as Thomas calls it, you deliberately control both internal and external factors. First, the internal. Only one task at a time. Yes, this flys in the face of multitasking, but I would rather do one job well, than four jobs haphazardly. And spare me your comments about your ability to multitask. You can’t. Studies have proven it. Takes breaks from your technology. Your phone and all the apps is designed to prevent you from accomplishing anything, unless you are getting paid to Instagram your food.
The other area concerns controlling your thoughts. My mind wanders. Boy, does it wander. That five page paper took me 20 minutes to crank out, but three hours to get there. Yes, it is hard for many of us to focus. But I am working at it.
The external factors are also difficult. Remember what I just said about your phone? Yeah, I do come from a mythical time, when a phone was tied to a wall and was used to call people. Period. Controlling your technology is difficult for some of us, but as Miss Piggy famously once said, “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message for moi.” That goes for texts, social media postings and the like. If you HAD to be there to get the joke, it wasn’t that important. Important stuff is when someone has to alert the media.
Finally, controlling your environment. I’ll say at this moment, whoever thought of the “no-cube wall” approach should be shot on sight. Not everything can be done by collaboration. We need privacy at times to take in everything and put it together for our understanding. We need to be able to think without interruption, without having to overhear about Betty’s Yankee Pot Roast recipe. Use headphones, or “Do not Disturb” signs. Go to other areas of the building if you can, but focus. being alone with your thoughts is a wonderful luxury that people seem genuinely afraid of.
Not every distraction should demand your attention. being able to manage distractions allows you to be able to accomplish what you need to do and enjoy life at the same time. It does not cost much to pay attention to the things you need to pay attention to. But paying attention to the things you don’t need will cost you greatly in the end.
Thomas, M. (n.d.). Attention Management™ is the new path to productivity. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from MauraThomas.com: https://maurathomas.com/empowered-productivity/attention-management/