Prioritize and Manage Attention

In the post Why Daydreaming is Critical to Effective Learning the first tip is “Prioritize and Manage Time.”

Rather than trying to do everything at the same time, the most productive people prioritize and block off their schedules to focus on one task at a time. “The idea is that if you become more efficient in time management, it allows for more spontaneity and creativity in the day, every day,” Levitin said.

I squirm at the words “time management” since no one can manage time. We can manage our attention though, what shall we actually do and focus on.

While researching his book, “The Organized Mind,” Levitin spent time with very successful people to try and figure out what they did differently from others that allowed them to get more done. While many of these people had a legion of employees working to organize their schedules and set priorities for them, the basic principle of focusing in on one task at a time holds true for anyone. “When they’re doing something, they’re really doing it,” Levitin said. “They get more done because their brain isn’t half somewhere else.”

The key to being productive and succesful (however you define success for you) is to focus on one task at a time.

Read more

Start Managing Your Attention
An 18 Minute Plan That Keeps You Focused
The Pomodoro Technique – manage your attention
Multitasking? No Way!

The Tail End (decide what matters)

Wait But Why is a great blog with lots of interesting posts, many of the very long. The Tail End is fairly short and to the point. I usually dislike the angle “Time is running out so…” but this post is very well done with a brilliant use of graphics.

It’s a reminder that we need to prioritize what we do. Being busy isn’t what matters, the question is what’s keeping you busy. Two of his three ending points are generic (comments are mine):
Priorities matter. (in everything)
Quality time matters. (in relationships as well as in everything else)

The text for priorities (in relationships of any kind) is this:

Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you — not by unconscious inertia.

Instead of spreading yourself thin, decide who really matters in your life and spend more face time with them.

An 18 Minute Plan That Keeps You Focused

Yesterday this interesting article popped up in my Twitter stream: An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day from Harvard Business Publishing.

The article mentions time management but time can not be managed. We can manage our priotities and that was the article is about.

The 18 minute plan is simple yet powerful when it comes to keeping us on track.

Step 1

STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day. Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been productive and successful? Write those things down.

I already use pen and paper for my planning, see Task management my way – pen and paper, step 1 above is just doing it differently from what I do today.

STEP 1, continued. Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.

My planning is usually not done in time slots, more a list of things for that day. Using time slots will make it clearer what actually can be done in one day. What really hit home was the ‘when and where’ part of the article (read more in their post):

If you want to get something done, decide when and where you’re going to do it. Otherwise, take it off your list.

Step 2

STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

This is a smart trick, a regular reminder to check that you are on track and on time. It’s easier to manage hour by hour than to manage on day level.

Step 3

STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

This is a great one too. I do review my days but not in a more formal way. Doing what’s in step three above will make the learning process much clearer.

Read more:
The jar of life – stones, pebbles and sand
Let limitations guide you to creative solutions
55 Ways to Get More Energy

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

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