In order to stay focused and purposeful at work, the attentive state of mind must be achieved. Take a step back and plan: What is your sequence? Is the project set within a realistic time frame? Having to work on Task No. 3 and realizing that No. 2 isn’t quite done yet is TOUGH – but don’t worry! The attentive state of mind will definitely help you out with your crisis in productivity. Set your smartphone to airplane mode, make sure you’ve had brunch, find a quiet spot free from distractions, and learn how to summon the attentive state of mind whenever you need it.
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Focused And Purposeful Working: The Attentive State of Mind
We’re going to talk about getting into an attentive state. We have all kinds of states of mind and states of being. When we have specific project goals that we want to accomplish, when we sit down to work on the tasks that take us forward in those goals, we want to be an attentive state. We want to be having the energy that’s focused on what’s going to move us forward, what is going to give us the outcome that we’re looking for that period of time that moves us forward towards our goal. That’s an attentive state. It means our energy is directed and we’re purposeful in what we’re thinking about so that we can stay connected, stay focused, and also accomplish what it is that we’re looking to in that time while avoiding distraction and avoiding a scope creep, which is when we might add more to our plate than what it is that we’ve actually sat down for. That’s the attentive state. In order to get into that attentive state, we need to do three things. We need to prepare for the time that we’re going to be attentive. We need to then see what we’re going to set up for ourselves while we’re being attentive, so that we can stay attentive. Lastly, we’re going to do a follow-up process to make it easier for us to get back into that attentive state next time we come back into this project work.
What do we do in our planning stage? First of all, in our planning stage we want to take a look at our overall project goals and what it is that we’re looking to accomplish. Remember Stephen Covey’s, “Start with the end in mind.” It’s important. Take a look at what the end goal is that we’re looking to achieve and then we can say what are the tasks that need to be accomplished in this particular time frame to move us forward towards our goals and specifically what’s important to do in what sequence, because that can be really important. You can’t start step number two or step number three until step number one is complete. Get clear on what the sequence of tasks are and specifically, so we don’t get caught up in doing let’s say task number three or step number three when we’re not quite finished with one yet and then we’re not doing things as efficient and effective as we could. That’s why we want to understand what’s the sequence. Make sure that we complete the first sequence before we move on to the second one. That’s going to allow us to give us our full attention to each of the steps and so that’s one of the keys.
The second thing that we want to do in our preparation is we want to make sure that we’re in an environment that is conducive to our attentiveness, that we can give our focus. We want to take a look at what are the distractions that could around in our environment and eliminate them. Put your phone on airplane mode so you’re not going to have any beeps or buzzes coming from your phone. If you’re wearing a Fitbit and that beeps all the time, turn the notifications off. Turn the notifications off your computer. You want to be notification free during this period. What else you want to do is make sure that you’ve had something to eat and something to drink before you start, so that you’re not having any physical changes or you’re not hungry. Make sure that you’re comfortable in the chair that you’re sitting in and the environment that you’re in doesn’t have other distractions. Maybe you need to put up a little sign that says leave me be. Do not disturb. Or maybe you need to move into a quieter space. Depending on what it is that you’re doing, you may need to have block out all noise that’s around you.
Those are the things you need to attend to your environment, to your physical self. Then mentally, make sure that there’s nothing that’s going to come up in the middle. Make sure that you do a dump of everything that you have to do and so you can clear that you might do just like a moment’s intention of what kind of attentive state and focus you want to bring to the time that you’re starting. Just by taking a couple deep breaths and letting it out, what you’re going to find is that’s going to let out any of the other mental energy that’s being held up in any other area so that you can focus on what you’re moving forward into. Then you want to check your goals right and have that list of what it is that you’re going to be working on in front of you so that anytime you might get even slightly off track.
Let’s say you want to expand the scope a little bit and check out something else, you can come back to what’s right in front of you and say, “Is this necessary to achieve this part of what I’m doing?” Constantly be bringing yourself back. If you have a longer block of time that you’ve scheduled to do, maybe it’s 90 minutes, you want to put check in points along the way, so even though it’s a 90-minute period, give yourself what you’re going to do in the first 30 minutes then check in and then celebrate your progress because that’s part of the problem is sometimes with 90 minutes, if we don’t feel like we’re making progress, then we may tend to want to be distracted.
We want to be distracted because we’re feeling or not making the progress, so we want that external stimulation. You get to do that yourself by taking a step back and recognizing what you did and what’s the next thing that you’re going to do. Constantly bring a little newness into what you’re doing every 30 minutes by looking at here’s the next little chunk that I’m going to do in the next little chunk. In a way, every time you check off something off a to-do list, it releases dopamine in your system and that is like a little burst of excitement and that means you’re starting something new. Instead of making that assignment a longer assignment, break it out into three little assignments, so you can feel like you’re checking off along the way. Feel the progress, feel that that rush inside you, and then start the next task which is giving you that new burst of excitement.
Using a timer during that period, it helps you psychologically to focus more on what you’re doing and knowing that after the timer goes off, you don’t have to focus on the time. The timer’s going to do that for you so you don’t have to keep checking in. That’s a distraction. You know that it’s going to go off when you’re complete and then you’re going to be able to do a little wrap up and that’s going to enable you to say, “What are the next things that you need to do for this project so that you can get back into it quickly?” Those are some things that you can do to get into an attentive state and to make the time that you have scheduled for certain project work to be focused, purposeful, and attentive. I know this is going to make a difference for your productivity. Attached, I’m giving you a little checklist and that checklist is going to help you in each of those three areas. Go ahead and take a look at it, use it, have it on your desk as a practice and you’ll see that you’re going to be 15%, 20%, 25%, even 50% more productive in each one of your blocks because you’re bringing your best energy. You’re going to bring an attentive state.
Thanks for being here and this is Take Back Time. By being more focused and more attentive, you are going to take back time. You’re going to be able to do things more efficiently and effectively which is going to give you more time elsewhere. This is Penny Zenker. We’ll see you in the next episode.