How to Maximise your Attention and Achieve Better Results

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

When was the last time you paid attention to someone or something and really gave it your full concentration? Our world is fuelled by information and our desire to share that information every moment of the day and night. The result is a society filled with information but lacking in attention.

It has been suggested that the average person makes 35,000 decisions per day. The quality of our decision-making deteriorates throughout the day. This decision fatigue can have varying consequences, from leaving us too tired to take action on our most important tasks (MITs) to court judges making poor quality convictions.

The positive effects of being more focused and having more attention

Simplifying your life is one way to reduce decision fatigue and every improvement you can make, however small, will help.

Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg limit their daily decision-making by reducing their wardrobe down to one or two outfits.

Reducing the friction in your day will enable you to spend time on the things that really matter to you. As a result you will make better decisions, be able to solve problems more easily and understand people better.

The problem with phones

One survey has suggested that 46% of Americans admitted to checking their phones before they got out of bed in morning. With 66% of millennials reaching for their phones before they rise out of the covers.

With our minds in decision-making mode from the moment we make, is it any wonder that when we get to our place of work we’re already partly fatigued?

Carving out time in the morning, on a consistent basis, is helpful if you want to achieve your goals. Spend your time on the most important things in your life (not your phone) at the start of your day when you are at your best and you’ll reap the rewards.

But how?

The three main components of attention

Aside from putting your phone away, there are three main areas to think about if you really want to become better at maintaining your attention levels.

1. Focus

People often know what they should be doing but they get distracted too easily. Give yourself some help by creating the right physical and mental environment for work.

Tidy your desk and your computer screen so that you only have in front of you what you are working on right now. Tidy up everything each evening so that you are ready for work the next day.

At the end of each day spend some time preparing yourself for the next day so that you know the shape of it e.g. will it be meeting heavy or desk-based?

In the evening think about the clothes you will wear and what you will eat for lunch the following day.

By doing this preparation you will find that when you start the next day your mind will be clearer and you will have more headspace for the real work.

2. Goals

Goals need to start with ‘why’. Having a deep and meaningful ‘why’ behind your goal will give it weight and increase the chances of it being fulfilled.

Goals need passion too. The word ‘passion’ has its roots in Latin (pati = to suffer). So you might want to ask yourself: what am I willing to suffer in order to achieve a greater ambition?

When you have clarity on your goal write it down. Then break that goal down into tiny actionable steps and show up every day i.e. work on your goal daily.

Keep in mind that if you want to know what your future holds then look at the actions you’re taking today.

3. Mindset

Everything in life is created twice, first in your mind and then in reality. In fact, your mind cannot distinguish between those things that have happened in your mind and those that have happened in real life.

Try this visualisation exercise: think about where your life will be in 10 years from now. What car do you drive? What does your environment look like? Who are your friends? Where do you live? What goals will you be working on?

Write down or draw the picture of your future life. Now use your answers to those questions to create a growth mindset i.e. believe in yourself that you don’t have to stay the same and that you can improve both yourself and your mind.

Keep the results of the visualisation exercise somewhere safe. When times are tough refer to the exercise as a powerful way of keeping clear in your mind where you are headed.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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