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Improve Your Time Management--Improve Your Attention

Time management is really attention management.

Allyson Lewis, 03/18/2010

In order to improve work productivity, you intuitively understand a need to improve personal time-management skills. When someone is working toward completing a task, project, or activity, there are certain processes that will make them more efficient. Improve time-management skills by focusing on these basic time-management concepts:
* Clarifying the desired outcome or goal
* Proper planning
* Prioritizing your activities and steps
* Organizing your resources, tools and people
* Monitoring your progress
* Focusing, or persevering until the task has been fully completed

One of the problems with this that we all face is that despite good intentions, our days are full of constant distraction and interruption. From client phone calls, to urgent staff meetings, to the constant appearance of hundreds of e-mail messages, your time is never really yours to manage.

This is not just a time-management problem; I believe that it is an attention-management crisis.

From childhood, our parents and teachers have constantly told us to "pay attention." Maybe now is the time to think about what you are choosing to "pay attention" to--your time is one of the most valuable currencies you have. Time is finite, limited, and incredibly valuable. Your time and how you choose to spend it creates the framework for your life and your success.

When was the last time you were reading research and you had a life-changing business insight from something that was published 120 years ago? A quote from William James inspired this article:

 "(Attention) is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction" 
-- William James, Principles of Psychology, 1890

Five Lessons from William James
1. "(Attention) is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form"
The whole idea of allowing something to "take possession" of your mind immediately implies that you believe it must be important. When we allow a task, project or interruption to "take possession," we must constantly ask if this is the "right" task, project, or interruption. Is this the "best" use of my mind? If so, then allow the idea to "possess" your full attention. As you increase your level of attention, you will be surprised by the level of renewed energy and excitement you feel about completing each task.

2.  "of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought."
The brain can fully focus its attention on ONE thing at a time. Yet, there are literally hundreds of things screaming for your attention at any given moment of the work day. As you improve your time- and attention-management skills, you will want to make sure that you are focusing on what we call "high-value activities." As you reduce the number of distractions that you allow into your day, you will be able to devote more attention to starting and completing each and every task. The key insight here is to regularly ask yourself, if the activity you're doing is the ONE thing you should be doing right now.

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