Article 3 - Attention Management

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Time management, one of the most important skills is it not?

No, it's redundant. There are only 24 hours you have to work with in any given day and the clock is always ticking. Trust me, the time will manage itself. What will not, however, is your attention.

We live in an attention economy, everything is set up to monopolise your attention. Notifications are ever-present. Phones have "always-on" displays. Social media platforms have been getting consistently more blue to keep you up, and on them, at night. "Clickbait" has made it into the Oxford Dictionary. UniDays is in your inbox, constantly convincing you to pour more money into meaningless sales. Our brains have been conditioned to be dopamine scavengers, jumping frantically from one source of gratification to the next. You pay the price of that as soon as you try to sit down and focus in a lecture for fifty-minutes straight, whenever you try to knuckle down to do anything productive for that matter. Marketing industries have realised that your attention is the most precious commodity. This runs true for you, believe it or not, as well as them; your attention is on the market and you need to make sure it stays in your hands.

Time management truly is outdated; it's misplaced efforts. Of the 24, you have about 16 hours to play with at a time. To put it simply, the more you do, the more you get done. The quicker you get started, the sooner you finish. It's as simple as that. More often than not, routine doesn't work, schedules and timetables don't work, the Pomodoro Method doesn't work. "Do Not Disturb" mode works surprisingly well however. Distractions will not allow you to work. Distractions can't be managed like time; they can't be scheduled into timetables and given their allotted space. As a result, what destroys your productivity is your attention. What destroys your attention is distractions. What therefore requires your attention are your distractions.

There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to reclaiming ownership over your attention, but what has helped me is the following:

If "Do Not Disturb" mode isn't enabled one your phone, enable it. If your phone is in the same room as you, remove it. If you have social media apps on your phone, remove them; use them on your computer instead. Actually, don't use them on your computer instead. If your room is set up to make that warm, comfortable bed the focal point, rearrange it; have your desk as the focal point. If you have gotten out of your bed and the blankets are still on it, hide them, stuff them in a cupboard, anything; you don't need to climb back in. If you have auto-play enabled on YouTube, disable it; that five-minute break needs to stay a five-minute break. The same goes for Netflix. If you have UniDays, unsubscribe; you need your money more than they do. If you have messaging apps on your home screen remove them. If your phone has a black and white mode, enable it; making your screens as dis-interesting as possible to look at works wonders; the converse is why Instagram is so addictive. If you have a whole load of distracting, "one-click-away" bookmarks spanning the top of your web browser, make a folder for them and place that in another folder, with a boring name, hidden away.

Your attention is what needs to be managed and on the one hand it can be quite simple. Distractions have worked their way into every part of our day. Unfortunately for us, they are designed to be irresistible and they are designed to be at our fingertips; the most convenient things in life are our distractions. Fight convenience; replace it with intentionality. How we can combat our distractions, is by putting them in their place. Putting them out of sight, out of mind and out of your time.

Written by Yunus Skeete


PDProject Founder and Manager

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