AuthorConnect Chat: Maura Thomas Sheds New Light on Productivity

“Attention Management” is the new path to productivity.

We sat down with Maura Nevel Thomas, author of Attention Management: How to Create Success and Gain Productivity to learn more about productivity, its relevance in our pursuit of greater contributions, outcomes, and success, and what this has to do with the practice of attention (not time) management.

“There is a specific definition of the word ‘productivity’ that guides my work. That definition is ‘achieving or producing a significant amount (outcome) or results.’” Personal productivity is ultimately about “achieving a significant result”—it’s about how much progress you are making on the things that are most significant to you. Maura continues, “attention management is about living a life of choice, rather than a life of reaction and distraction.”

So many people feel like they are busy all day, but they still didn’t get the important things done (how many of us can relate to this, especially now, in the year of COVID?). Learning how to manage your time only works if you actually do the important things at the times you’ve designated to accomplish them.

“So,” Maura challenges us, “what is your biggest obstacle to achieving those most desired, most significant results?”

In a poll conducted during the AuthorConnect Chat with Maura, attendees gave two answers: “too much to do and not enough time to do it” and “too many distractions.” Let’s dig in to the top culprits continuing to steal our time and attention and discover ways to combat them.

Meetings

Don’t accept meetings that don’t have an agenda or goal. As Maura states, “if it’s not clear what the goal is when you get invited to a meeting, make sure you ask.” Know the plan or goal of the meeting, know what’s expected of you, and know what your role in the meeting is. Therefore, you can come prepared or decline the invitation if you don’t really have a role or defined purpose.

By doing this, you ensure that that meeting is a good use of your time. Outside of the meetings you attend, be sure to block out personal time to do and execute on work that is important to you to get done that week.

Emails

“If you’re checking email all the time, as they come in, it pretty much guarantees that you will be distracted all the time. Make sure you close out your email for 20-30 minutes at a time—or if you can, an hour at a time, a couple times a day—so you can get important work done.”

You can’t get up “the brainpower momentum” as Maura calls it, to do important and significant work if you don’t close out your email to set aside time for this to happen.

Secondly, don’t check your email, voicemail, and social accounts first thing in the morning, if you can help it. Instead, go to your task list first when you sit down and start there. Make sure you divide out your low-attention tasks and your high-attention tasks, as both require different kinds of time blocks and focus from you. Avoid the cycle of reaction (spending hours to clear out email, social, messages, etc.), and tackle what absolutely needs to be done first before getting sucked into the abyss of digital messages and queries on your various platforms.

Control your environment.

People will drop in on you at the office and at home. At home, you can put up a sign that says “Do Not Disturb.” If the door is closed, people in your office or in your home will know (once you communicate this) that that is the boundary and that means not to open the door. You can also try a dry erase board, so family and/or coworkers know what time they can open the door and reach you.

Control your technology and your own brain.

Our technology can only distract us if we allow it to do so. Our devices have habituated distraction in us—once you are used to being distracted every few minutes, you become accustomed to it (even expecting them and taking breaks for them: hello, social media scrolling). Once you learn how to control your environment and exert some control over your technology, you’ll be able to uncover time to which you can dedicate your attention to the high-attention tasks and significant work you want to accomplish.

Lastly, develop an outcome-based approach rather than an hours-based approach. Even if this requires a conversation with your boss or team, this is important so that your team and boss understand the demands at home. If you have little kids at home, for example, make sure you’re communicating what you can and plan to accomplish that week (or in the next two weeks). Exert control over your schedule and commit to the outcomes you want to achieve, while communicating those to your team and allowing for time blocking in your schedule to accomplish them.

Discover more attention management insights by watching the full AuthorConnect Chat below, and order Attention Management in bulk for your team or organization today.

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This post was written by Karlyn Hixson, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Editorial at BookPal. She is currently reading Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.

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