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7 Tips To Manage Attention and Avoid Overwhelm

7 Tips To Manage Attention and Avoid Overwhelm
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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!

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Daniel Wallen

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

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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