Though I was never diagnosed as suffering from attention deficit disorder, I feel at times so distracted by everything and everyone. I start something and lack the fortitude to finish it. I am always concerned about what is not getting done, obsessing over what is next rather than immersing myself into what I am doing. I procrastinate over doing the things I least want to do.
My to-do list runs longer than any 24-hour day. Beyond my obligations, and they seem to be many, are my desires, an even bigger sum. I feel anxious and overwhelmed. I want to do everything but instead sometimes avoid it all and hide in the den, watching television and snacking my way to a life unfulfilled. I am the victim of too many ideas, too many passions, and too many dreams.
I decided I need help. I sought it by reading a book, Attention Management: How To Create Success and Gain Productivity Every Day, by Maura Nevel Thomas.
We can do more, be more, and enjoy more — but we need to slow down, prioritize, compartmentalize. We just need to be less distracted and stressed, and to know our limits.
I enjoyed Thomas’ book and am quoting the following insights she shared in her quick-read:
1. The problem is that we’re thinking about productivity all wrong, and that’s messing up our lives. We’re hung up on the old-fashioned idea of managing time, but to live the lives we really want to live, what we actually need to master is managing our attention.
2. When you change what you’re doing in response to every incoming distraction, you never get the quiet, uninterrupted time you need to get in “flow” that immersive, highly focused state where you both do your best work and feel most satisfied by your work.
3. Furthermore, if part of your attention is always lured away by these distractions, your mind never gets the calm, restful time it needs to recharge. As a result, you get cranky, impatient, and scattered, and your judgment, learning, creativity, and problem-solving abilities suffer.
4. When you are fully controlling your attention, you can be mindful, present, and focused on the people, tasks, and activities that matter most to you.
5. Even if your daily habits are solid, you’re still at risk for exhaustion, burnout, and dampened creativity and motivation if you never take your attention away from work for longer periods, like weekends and vacations.
6. Make a “do not disturb” sign to hang on your office door, the back of your chair, or a cubicle wall when you are trying to focus. This prevents the inevitable “Do you have a minute?” drop-ins.
7. The persistent belief that distracted work at a frantic pace is beneficial--or at least necessary--is difficult to overcome. One reason for this is that we undervalue the achievement and overvalue the importance of the interruption. Chaos makes our days feel dynamic and busy, and it’s easy to mistake being busy for being productive. But we can only be productive--achieve our significant results-- when we can be proactive. And we can only be proactive when we’re not being reactive.
8. You have more control than you think--over your technology, your environment, and even your own habits and thoughts. Exerting that control is necessary. Attention management is the path to reclaiming it.
9. What if you consistently allow your attention to be stolen by the millions of things that are constantly demanding it? Then you end up with too many days where you felt busy but didn’t accomplish much. Those days add up into weeks, months, and years. And eventually, you’ll find yourself wondering why you never accomplished your important goals or why you feel disconnected from the important people in your life.
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