What Is Attention?
The self-help philosophy has been existing since ancient times. But only in the 21st century has it become a widespread phenomenon prevailing such areas as psychology, business, politics or health. The philosophy touches various concepts and one of its latest trends is attention.
So what is attention? Encyclopaedia Britannica defines it in the following way, “attention, in psychology, is the concentration of awareness on some phenomenon to the exclusion of other stimuli.” Simply, it’s our ability to focus on one particular thing or task despite the surrounding distractions. It’s also important to know that there are 4 types of attention:
- Sustained Attention – when you can focus on one task for a long time, e.g. reading a book.
- Selective Attention – selecting to focus on one task despite surrounding distractions, e.g. reading a book in a crowded, loud bus.
- Alternating Attention – doing two intertwined activities back and forth, e.g. checking your notes for references while writing a book.
- Divided Attention – dividing your attention between two or more things, e.g. writing a book and talking with your friend on a phone.
We often give one of these 4 types of attention in our work not even being aware of it. Knowing how we pay our attention can help us become more focused and effective in your work.
Attention for Managers
The reason for which attention is getting more and more importance is the fact that it influences our work. There are numerous studies on attention and its impact on people’s productivity, behavior, and even intelligence. According to the study by workplace researcher, Bostjan Ljubic of Steelcase, “we are interrupted about every three minutes during the work day.” What does it say about our attention? Well, we’re definitely not aware of how we direct it.
While the problem of attention management is considered mostly in terms of employees, it also occurs in the environment of project managers. It is no wonder since their work is challenging. They have to work with many people on many tasks in a short period of time. That makes it difficult to concentrate and pay attention to what really matters. Especially, that in most cases they are surrounded by distractions.
Beeping electronic devices, phones ringing every five minutes, tight deadlines, meetings, and multiple projects are just a few of the many things that project managers have to deal with. So how to know when is the right time to pay attention? When should managers pay the most attention at work?
When and How to Pay Attention?
Not every task or issue demands your immediate reaction. You, as a manager, are the only person who knows your tasks and duties best. And also, you better than anyone know when and how to react to things happening in your environment.
When working with a team you need to be able to direct your attention and your team’s. With all the information, our conversations get polluted with unnecessary facts and it’s important to filter our talks, whether it is face to face or via electronic devices. Julian Birkinshaw, in his article for Harvard Business Review, writes, “As Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon first suggested 40 years ago, when information is plentiful, attention becomes the scarce resource.”
And so attention is like a resource. You only have it as much. And like every other resource, you need to be able to manage it properly. But you also have to remember that it’s closely related with time.
How do you spend your work time? How much of it do you dedicate to particular tasks, projects, people, meetings, and other aspects of your work? And how much of it are you actually wasting?
It’s all connected with your focus, organization, and prioritization. In other words, how you organize your time. And the only way to check it is to monitor your work and how you spend your time on it.
How to Get Things Done?
There are people who precisely know how to divide their time between work, friends, family, and private moments. And if you’re one of such people, you know how much it helps in achieving work-life balance and peace of mind. Paying attention in today’s era of distractions matters more than ever because it helps to get more things done.
If you’re struggling with getting things done due to the distractions and wrong attention management as a project manager, here are 3 things you should do.
1. Implement time tracking
Why time tracking? Let’s get back to what was written above – the only way to get things done effectively is to pay attention to how you’re spending your working hours. And time tracking software, such as TimeCamp, can help you with that.
The desktop app automatically follows you and presents all your activities in the form of detailed but comprehensive reports. You can see the exact log hours, how much time you spent on particular tasks, and whether they were productive or not. This is a quick and efficient method of attention management. You know where your time goes and can swiftly improve your work style.
Then, if you need, you can use more of TimeCamp’s features for even more effective and convenient work, for example, invoicing, reporting, budgeting, attendance, integrations, and more.
⇓ Watch the video tutorial to see how TimeCamp works ⇓
2. Find your productive and productivity zone
Attention management can work only if you know how things work for you. And so, you have to find the balance that will make it easy for you to work and filter the vital issues out of the information noise.
Find the place you feel most comfortable at, be it kitchen desk, the comfortable armchair in the office hall or a small desk in your team’s room. The same goes for the working hours. If you like to get up early in the morning and work in your pajamas, do it. But if you feel better working at late hours, don’t force yourself to be an early bird. Do whatever favors your productivity and helps you aim your attention in the right direction.
3. Be clear
The only way to learn and master attention management is to focus on two spheres in which you have to be crystal clear about:
- You – your plans, goals, daily to-do’s and habits, work free from distractions, and your personal expectations from yourself.
- Your team – what you expect from them, when they can reach out to you, and what are they responsible for.
If you focus on these two spheres, you’ll know what to pay attention to and when.