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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.

Less Thinking, More Doing: Develop the Action Habit Today Why Instant Gratification is the Villain of Success How To Be Happy Alone and Enjoy Life Why You Procrastinate: 7 Possible Reasons You Can’t Get Anything Done 9 Things to Remember When You’re Having a Bad Day

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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