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The Modern Day Garden of Eden. Same Story, Different Fruit

February 17, 2011

It almost seems like a test from a higher power. Here is this fantastic, wonderful technology, placing the world at your fingertips, but you are only permitted to analyze data on excel.

 

How is it even remotely possible to expect that we can devote our full attention to work related tasks when our primary tool for completing said tasks is a distraction machine? Itʼs not that we mean to have wandering eyes, itʼs just that itʼs so easy to sneak away for a few minutes to check up on the latest news (celebrity gossip being my vice), breeze through the Facebook newsfeed or skim through your favourite blog. The problem with these temporary escapes is that they can add up to A LOT of time lost and put a damper on your productivity.

 

So then. what are we to do? In Tony Schwartzʼs opinion, itʼs time to Take Back Your Attention and stop giving in to all of our desires (in many aspects of our lives). Tony outlines six tactics that can help us overcome our “continuous partial attention” and exercise self control in order to focus.

 

1. Let your Deepest Values Become a More Powerful Guide to your Behaviours. Tony suggests we outline what we truly stand for. He asks us to evaluate our behaviours and to focus on how we want to behave. Once articulated, those commitments can become our guide and also act as a source of energy.

 

2. Slow Down. When weʼre moving too quickly we often donʼt allow time to reflect on our behaviours. Tonyʼs advice is to set aside a few minutes during the day to reflect and check in with ourselves.

 

3. Build Deliberate Practices. Turn your everyday tasks into routines. Deliberately perform the same tasks at specific times, cementing their exact start and end times, until they form a habit.

 

4. Create “Precommitments” to Minimize Temptation. Just as we avoid McDonaldʼs while on a diet, itʼs important to minimize the risk for indulgence at work. Turn off you email or disable your Internet connection entirely in order to stay on task and eliminate the ability to give in to your unproductive information seeking desires.

 

5. Share your Commitments. Let others know about your quest to stay on track and ask them to hold you accountable. Also, try to get others involved and share your goals, successes and slip-ups in the most public way possible.

 

6. Start Small. Set small, manageable goals to get your attention back on track as, overtime, your ability to concentrate for longer periods of time will get stronger. Slowly build up your attention, but don’t go past 90 minutes without a break.

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