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Understand and Improve Your Attention Span

Improving your productivity and time-management skills requires enhancing your attention span.

Allyson Lewis, 01/29/2015

Attention is a conscious choice to focus on one activity at a time without distraction.

In a single workday you are bombarded with dozens of potential distractions--ringing phones, incoming emails, text messages, office noise, even the stack of paper on your desk--that buzz like gnats, causing irritation and aggravation. Distractions are all around you, and even the tiniest interruption breaks your concentration.

To combat the constant drone of these annoyance, here are my 9 Ways to Understand and Improve Your Attention Span.

1. Understand How and What Affects Your Ability to Focus
The length of your personal attention span is never constant. At any given moment, you are experiencing "attentional oscillation." One moment you are fully engulfed in a business project, and the next moment you find yourself day-dreaming about your upcoming vacation.

Increasing your attention span requires understanding your brain's limitation to paying attention and being able to recognize the ebbs and flows of your attention span. Your ability to focus for long periods of time can be difficult. When you begin to lose focus on the project at hand, do not switch to a different project. Rather, take a few minutes to get your blood pumping again:

> Stretch
> Walk up a flight of stairs
> Take a short break

Then return to the same task you were working on and choose to completely finish that project before moving on to the next task.

2. Understand the Drivers of Attention
It is critical to comprehend the principles of attention and how the body and brain work together. Increasing your ability to pay attention is impacted by:

> Sleep
> Hydration
> Nutrition
> Exercise

3. Remove as Many Physical Distractions as Possible
Turn off the incoming email alerts on your work computer. Silence the text, email, and news notification alerts on your phone, and check them only once per hour. Schedule time to go through each file on your desk. Every piece of paper, every sticky note, and every unreturned phone call are painful physical distractions reducing your ability to concentrate. Even improving the lighting in your office can make it easier to focus.

4. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping
Your attention span automatically increases when you focus on activities and projects that release adrenaline into your blood stream. Your heart begins to beat faster and you become more involved in your work. The expectation of success releases powerful chemicals into your body--calling your mind to attention with a heightened sense of awareness and excitement.

To increase your attention span, create a list of tasks that release adrenaline in your blood stream. Examples of adrenaline-releasing tasks might include:

> The moment a client is about to walk in the door
> The opportunity to share important and valuable information with a client or co-worker
> Knowing exactly what your will say to a prospective client when you are just reaching for the telephone

5. Pay Attention to High-Value Activities
Focus your attention on activities that will move the needle and increase the production revenue and monetary success of your business. Create a written business plan and decide which high-value activities you will choose to focus your limited time on. Your attention is the most expensive currency in your life--use it wisely!

Examples of high-value activities for financial advisors might include:

> Hosting face-to-face appointments
> Scheduling telephonic client reviews
> Networking with affluent contacts
> Prospecting
> Asking people to do business with you
> Hosting seminars

Focusing on high-value activities increases your attention span. Focusing on low-value activities encourages you to lose motivation, thereby draining you of energy and the ability to concentrate.

6. Stop Wasting Your Attention
Stop wasting your attention on constantly planning how you will grow your business. Stop spending time building lists of people you will call. Get on the phone and start calling people!

No matter what other activities you choose to spend time working on, calling people, and calling more people, and calling more people is a key element of success. The old adage is still true today: "See more. Tell more. Sell more."

However, the days of selling are ending and the days of adding value are growing. Narrow your practice and deliver the highest value to your niche. You are called a financial advisor for a valuable reason--investors are looking for sound financial advice.

7. Don't Get Distracted by New Ideas--Store Them!
One of the most problematic distractions occurs when your own subconscious thoughts bubble up into your conscious awareness. And because you know how unreliable your short-term memory is, you stop and ponder on this new thought and begin to work on the new idea rather than finishing the original project.

Rather than switching tasks, use specific tools to safely store these new thoughts. There is no reason to take immediate action on every thought that passes into your consciousness. Realize you don't need to take instant action; you simply need one safe location to write down your thoughts and then return your full attention on completing your original project.

8. Work From a Written Daily Plan of Action
As simple as it may sound, the act of paying attention implies you know what you should be paying attention to! A mental to-do list is an aggravating distraction with no emotional commitment. By working from a daily written plan of action, you receive an instant emotional reward for finishing the task you were working on.

The power of a checkmark is a remarkable reward, and the positive emotional reward increases your attention span.

9. Get Out of Your Routine
Routines and ruts reduce your interest in working on your business. Consider how your attention span instantly increases when you work on something:

> Novel
> Unexpected
> Happy
> Challenging
> Purposeful
> Meaningful
> Different
> Motivational
> Fun
> Exciting

Create pockets of time to allow these moments of inspiration to sweep you away and refocus your attention.

Allyson Lewis is a nationally acclaimed motivator, speaker, time management and productivity strategist, executive coach, best-selling author of The 7 Minute Solution and The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner, and founder of www.The7MinuteLife.com. Download her latest time management report: http://the7minutelife.com/free-report/

To take advantage of the free time management worksheets, webinars, and more, subscribe to The7MinuteLife.com and follow her on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/the7minutelife and Twitter: @allyson7minutes

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