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7 Tips To Manage Attention and Avoid Overwhelm

7 Tips To Manage Attention and Avoid Overwhelm

Have you ever felt so burdened by all the things you have to do that you can’t even figure out how to start? If so, check out the following seven tips to manage attention and avoid overwhelm.

1. Eliminate Distractions

Have you ever noticed that it takes you almost as long to begin an assignment or chore as it does to actually complete it? Since it takes some time to find the drive to begin, distractions could destroy your productivity in a hurry. The simple act of beginning to work already takes some time, so it’s important to avoid distractions that would cause you to have to re-start over and over again. Silence your phone unless you’re expecting a monumentally important phone call. Close every browser window except the ones that are necessary for the task at hand. If you work in an office and are working on something important with an impending deadline, kindly ask your co-workers to refrain from interrupting you for an hour or two except in case of emergency.

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2. Get Up and Move

When your eyes start to glaze over, you need to take a break. Forcing yourself to continue working without a break despite the fact that your concentration is dead and gone is not efficient. Would you rather keep working at a snail’s pace or walk away for a moment so you can return with revived focus and vigor? Go outside for a quick walk and a hit of energy from the sun’s rays. Kick off your heels and do a few squats and push-ups on a wall or counter to get your blood flowing. You could even skip back and forth joyfully if no one’s watching. At best, you’ll feel an immense burst of positive energy, and at worst, you’ll feel silly and laugh at yourself, both of which will provide you with a much-needed break from the daily grind.

3. Prioritize

If you have an innumerable to-do list of things that are going to eat up your entire work day, it’s easy to become so overwhelmed that you don’t know how to start. Write down everything you need to do in a big list and rate each item on a scale of 1-5 in order of importance. Knock out the most difficult or important tasks first so your largest sources of stress will be gone as soon as possible.

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4. Chunk It Up

Are you working on a huge project like a full-length book, elaborate website design, or new business venture? Tackling a monster of a project without a clear list of action steps could stress you out before you start, so break it down into tiny steps. While you might feel a heavy burden initially, you will feel that weight lift off your shoulders with each check mark you make, developing positive encouragement that will keep you motivated to continue.

5. Turn on Some Tunes

According to a study at the University of Miami, listening to music at work could increase creativity and efficiency. Dr. Teresa Leisuk, the researcher behind this study, suggests that music is beneficial because it puts the listener in a positive frame of mind that is more receptive to new ideas.

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6. Know Thyself

Do you feel like there is a certain time of day when your brain is in top-notch condition and you can accomplish anything? Is there another time of day when you just can’t seem to concentrate no matter how hard you try? Be aware of what time you are at your best and plan accordingly. For example, if you have a tough time focusing in the morning, you might want to start your day with mindless tasks like answering emails, doing paperwork, shredding documents, and organizing files. Save activities that require the highest concentration for the time of day when you are at your best.

7. Start Your Day Strong

At the beginning of every day, ask yourself, “What are the three most important things that I must accomplish today?” Trust your gut instinct and write it down. Don’t make a longer list because if you do, you might conveniently “run out of time” before you get around to your biggest priorities. It’s funny how if you focus on the important things, the rest tends to take care of itself.

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How do you stay uber productive at work?

If you have any additional tips that would help our readers manage attention and avoid overwhelm, please drop them in the comments!

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

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