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Last Updated on March 25, 2021

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

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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

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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.

Is Living Together Before Marriage Good or Bad? 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

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Published on October 22, 2021

The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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  • Task Name
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Interruptions
  • Work Time
  • Break Time

Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

1. Choose a Task

To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

3. Facilitating Breaks

One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

Reference

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