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Last Updated on March 25, 2021

How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Start to Be More Attentive

How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Start to Be More Attentive

Does any of these sound like you (or someone you know)?

You walk into a room and don’t know why you went in there in the first place. You are always late. You can never find your keys (or purse, etc). You space out in the middle of conversations. You don’t know what you want to do with your future because your thoughts aren’t organized enough to even begin to make any plans. You just feel absent minded all the time. 

So what should you do? There are things you can do to change your absent-mindedness. Even if you’re not absent-minded, you can at least share these tips with people who are.

Here are 11 things you can do to stop being absent minded and start to be attentive.

1. Put everything back in the same place

It sounds simple but it’s easier said than done for some people.

Try to create a new habit of routine. For example, when you walk in the door, put your keys in the same place. When you go to the mall, park in the same general area.

In other words, develop new habits. It will take a while for the new routines to become second nature but it will happen if you keep doing them for a few weeks. Just stay committed and try these tricks to make new habits stick.

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2. Make lists

Sometimes when I have a gazillion things flying around in my head that I need to accomplish, I get overwhelmed. And then nothing gets done. That’s why I immediately start making a list when I start feeling that way.

When I see what I need to get done on paper, it somehow calms me down. And if I need to, I even put them in order of priority. Sometimes I even put a time on each one … like, “At 10:00 I will answer all my emails. At 11:30, I will start a load of laundry.” Sounds cheesy, but it works.

Find out what lists you should keep to stay focus here: The Power of the List: Essential Lists for Productivity

3. Set timers

If you’re always late, learn to set the timer on your oven or your microwave or get an egg timer and set that. (Yes, here’re 7 Reasons to Borrow Grandma’s Egg Timer.)

As obnoxious as it sounds, when the buzzer goes off, it snaps you out of whatever you are consumed with in the moment and re-directs your attention to where you should be going.

The use of timers will get rid of your excuse … “I just lost track of time.” It won’t happen with a timer or at least it shouldn’t.

4. Use a schedule and pay attention to following it

Maybe you love technology and keep your schedule on your phone or perhaps you’re old-fashioned and keep it on paper. Either way, you still need one.

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That might sound obvious given the fact that we live in an over-scheduled world. But trust me, I know many people who don’t have one. If that’s you, get a schedule. And once you have it, pay attention to it and use it! What’s the point of having it if you don’t?

5. Delegate responsibilities.

No one is Superwoman (or Superman). You can’t do everything.

Some people don’t know this; they have perfectionist personalities. But being ‘perfect’ is a myth. It’s an illusion. There is no such thing.

If your over-committed life causes you to be absent-minded, tell other people to pick up the slack for you. Get your kids to do the laundry. Get your spouse to pick up your daughter at her friend’s house. You don’t have do do everything!

Learn about delegation so you can be a more attentive person: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

6. Use sticky notes

I think the person who invented the sticky note is the most brilliant person who ever lived! That’s a slight exaggeration but they work!

If you need to remember to send that email or make that call when you get to work, put a sticky note on your cell phone. Chances are that when you get to the office you will check your phone anyway – and you’ll see your reminder. It’s simple and effective.

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One note of caution though, don’t use too many! If you do, it becomes overwhelming and you get to the point where you don’t even “see” them anymore.

7. Do one thing at a time

Many people think they are great multi-taskers. They can talk on the phone, type emails and put make-up on all at the same time. But when you do too many things at once, none of them are done particularly well.

Do one thing at a time so you can make sure that you complete everything you are doing.

8. Have an “accountability buddy”

If you’re trying to develop any of the new habits that I’ve discussed so far, it helps to have someone hold you accountable.

Grab a friend and schedule quick, regular texts, emails or phone calls. They could either be reminders or they could be check-ins to report progress. Either way, if you know that you are going to have to answer to someone else, you will be more likely to stay committed to change.

9. Schedule regular de-cluttering

Lots of people have junk piles or even entire junk rooms. The problem is that many times they get out of control. Anyone who has watched any of the hoarder TV shows knows that once you let it get that way, it’s difficult to correct it.

Put your de-cluttering sessions on your schedule. Since you are already following your schedule, you will have consistency with throwing out what you don’t need.

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Some decluttering tips to help you:

If that’s a little bit too much for you, try this One Question to Help You Successfully Declutter Anything

10. Try to foresee problems and consequences of your actions

Your absent-mindedness affects other people. If you’re constantly late, your friend is probably sick of waiting an hour for you to show up at the restaurant; or maybe your kid is feeling bad because you are the last parent to pick them up from the slumber party.

Your actions affect others. Once you realize that, it might motivate you to adopt some of these tips.

11. Stop talking and start DOING

You can’t lose weight if you just sit around complaining about how fat you are. You can’t become a better basketball player if you sit on the couch and watch reality TV every night. And you can’t become less absent-minded if you don’t take action.

Talking about it is great but it doesn’t count. What does count is to start doing it! This will all take a little bit of work but if you follow these tops and stay committed, you will eventually become much more organized and on top of your game.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

How to Improve Intimacy in Your Marriage and Rekindle the Passion 10 Tips on How to Do Something You Don’t Want to Do How to Stop Being Absent Minded and Start to Be More Attentive How to Beat Your Fear of Rejection and Embrace Failures 7 Hidden Causes of Fatigue And Steps to Prevent Serious Health Damage 13 Things to Remember When Life Gets Rough

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

On August 6, 1991, the world changed forever when the internet became publicly available. Less than 30 years later, our lives have been irrevocably transformed. We can now learn, explore, and communicate 24/7, which is both amazing and, as we all know, hazardous to our productivity[1]. This is why the question, “What is block scheduling?” has become important.

To be clear, the internet isn’t life’s only distraction, and while productivity has become a huge buzzword in recent years, it’s simply a measure of progress: Are you doing what matters most? Actively moving toward your goals?

Author Neil Pasricha writes in Harvard Business Review[2]:

“As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, the scarcest resource for all of us is becoming attention and creative output. And if you’re not taking time to put something new and beautiful out in the world, then your value is diminishing fast.”

Most entrepreneurs relate deeply to this sentiment. Pasricha solved his own productivity challenges by instituting “untouchable days” that shield him from texts, phone calls, meetings, alerts, or appointments of any kind. He says these focused sessions have enabled him to produce his most creative and rewarding work.

I love Pasricha’s approach, but it’s not always realistic for me. As the founder and CEO of JotForm, I need to weigh in on a variety of daily decisions, from hiring to product roadmaps to financial planning. I suspect other founders feel the same way. Yet, I do believe in the power of focused work, which is also why I recommend block scheduling.

What Is Block Scheduling?

Entrepreneurs often flaunt their multitasking as a badge of honor. After all, starting a business is a tug-of-war between competing priorities.

However, while multitasking might feel efficient, research shows that shifting between tasks can slash productivity by up to 40%. Task-switching leaves what Dr. Sophie Leroy calls “attention residue,”[3] which means we’re still thinking about a previous activity while we start the next one[4].

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Here’s where block scheduling can shine. What is block scheduling, exactly?

We usually become familiar with the concept of block scheduling in high school. You likely received a schedule with a certain number of classes per day, all blocked according to class time, each school year. This is basic block scheduling.

Also called time blocking, block scheduling is the practice of allocating large chunks of time to related tasks. For example, you might designate Mondays for meetings and Tuesdays for strategy. Teachers often use block scheduling when creating lesson plans. There are many different approaches, which we’ll get to shortly.

First, here’s why it matters. Business is essentially problem-solving. Creating strategies, writing code, developing products, and all the myriad activities that entrepreneurs tackle demand focus and minimal distractions. They’re also inherently human tasks that won’t easily be replaced by AI, which means your business depends on your ability to go deep.

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World, said in a 2017 interview:

“Focus is now the lifeblood of this economy.”

Entrepreneurs use their minds to launch ideas and create value, so the ability to concentrate is “almost like a superpower”[5].

Block scheduling can also help you to produce higher quality work in less time. Parkinson’s Law holds that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,”[6], which is why setting time limits can deflate a ballooning task.

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How to Use Time Blocking to Boost Productivity

We all have different rhythms and responsibilities. Personalization is the key to successful time blocking, and it will require some trial and error. Here’s how to get started.

What is time blocking?

    1. Assess Your Calendar

    Evaluating your current schedule can be surprisingly difficult because few of us can accurately estimate how much time a task requires. If it feels easier, track how you actually spend your time for a full week. Note each activity—even 10 minutes of email and 15 minutes of social media scrolling between meetings.

    Once you know how you’ve been spending your time, it’ll be easier to know what to keep and what to throw out when you begin to make your new schedule.

    2. Look for Patterns

    After you’ve documented a full week, group tasks into categories. For example, you can include the following categories:

    • Administrative
    • Meetings
    • Creative work
    • Email
    • Personal time.

    You can also label tasks based on how you feel while doing them, or how they influence your energy levels on a scale from 1-10. Do whatever makes sense for you.

    3. Arrange Your Time Blocks

    Experiment with different block scheduling patterns. For example, one morning may look like this:

    • 8-9am: Respond to emails
    • 9-10am: Write up marketing proposal
    • 10-11am: Brainstorm and plan for Client A’s project
    • 11am-12pm: Meet with Client A to discuss ideas

    However, you may find that you’re more creative immediately after waking up. In that case, you’d want to move “brainstorming and planning” to an earlier slot. If responding to emails is best for when you’re feeling a little lethargic after lunch, put it there.

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    Read your emotions and abilities throughout the day to tap into what is going to work best for you.

    Ultimately, the goal is to avoid switching mental gears throughout the day, week, and maybe even the month. I realize this isn’t easy, especially for entrepreneurs, but it can be incredibly valuable.

    Spending a full day on projects you dislike, such as administrative work or meetings, might feel daunting, but blocking them into a single day can make the rest of your week infinitely more productive and more enjoyable. You’re free to tackle all the entrepreneurial challenges that get your blood flowing.

    4. Create Day Themes

    If you’re someone who has to focus on many things during a single day or week, you may find it more beneficial to create themes for each day instead of blocking up your day into individual tasks. For example, you can set Mondays as Brainstorming/Planning days, Tuesdays as Administrative days, etc.

    If you take this route, I suggest always scheduling in at least one Family day. It will ensure you make time for the important people in your life and give your brain time to rest.

    Benefits of Block Scheduling

    Once you’ve answered “What is block scheduling?” and know how to use it correctly, you’ll find that you receive many benefits. Here are just a few.

    Battle Procrastination

    If you have your schedule set and know you only have an hour to get a particular task done, it will be significantly easier to avoid procrastinating.

    For more on how to stop procrastinating, check out this article.

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    Create Realistic Time Estimates

    Once you’ve been working with time blocking for a while, you’ll learn which activities take the most/least time. You may have to adjust your schedule during the first month or so to get it right, but be patient. You’ll continue to learn to realistically estimate how much time a particular task will take.

    Develop More Focus and Attention

    When your schedule doesn’t leave much room for scrolling through social media or chatting with coworkers, you’ll find your brain is more devoted to paying attention to the task at hand. You’ll respond to the limits you set for yourself and will focus to get things done.

    Final Thoughts

    Most founders crave freedom. Yet, school schedules, jobs, and social norms condition us to work with a traditional schedule and reactive mindset. Before we know it, we’ve re-created a working schedule that traces back to the 19th century, even in our own companies. Block scheduling is not only a tool to maximize productivity; it’s a way to reclaim your time[7].

    In my 14 years at JotForm, I’ve realized that business growth means doing more of what makes the biggest impact. I don’t always succeed, but I try to focus my time and energy where it matters, and I know that busyness is not synonymous with productivity.

    If you feel the same way, give time blocking a try. Share your experiments in scheduling with colleagues and family members so they understand the changes and can support you.

    Finally, don’t worry about getting it right immediately. You may need to get under the hood of your calendar and tinker around a bit. Find what works for you, then protect your new schedule at all costs.

    More Tips on Time Management

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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