Metrowest Neuropsychology

Attention And Productivity

Welcome to this blog post on attention and productivity. Someone anonymously posted the following 7 productivity tips on the community billboard at work. I do not know the original source for each of these tips. Several are reminiscent of Robin Sharma’s advice on limiting distractions and maintaining physiological energy.

Not all of them are necessarily scientifically-supported (or at least, citations were not provided). In any case, they are food for thought.  From a neuropsychological point of view, these tips do highlight how limiting distractions (in this time of frenetic sending and receipt of messages, etc.), maintaining energy/alertness and setting your daily priorities all support the kind of high-quality attention that allows you to be optimally productive.


Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks

Writing "launch company website" at the top of your to-do list will simply ensure it never gets done. Break down the work into smaller and smaller chunks until you have tasks that can be done in a few hours or less (such as “secure domain name”, “sketch out look for homepage”). That is how to set goals, and actually succeed in crossing them off your list.


Stop Multi-Tasking

No, seriously – stop. Switching quickly from task to task does not work. When you multi-task throughout the day (e.g., talking on the phone while arranging your desk), your productivity on drops by an average of 15%. Pick a task, focus on it fully, then move on to the next one.


Be Militant About Eliminating Distractions

Lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, email, and instant messaging. In fact, if you know you might sneak a peek at your email, turn it to offline mode, or simply turn off your internet connection. Go to a quiet area and focus on completing one task. And then another, if you have time left. And another.


Schedule Your Email

Pick two or three times a day when you will check email, and clear out your email inbox.  Checking email constantly throughout the day creates a ton of noise, and kills your productivity.


Use The Phone

Email isn’t really meant for conversations.  Don’t reply more than twice to an email thread. Pick up the phone instead. 


Work On Your Own Agenda

Don’t let someone else set your daily priorities. Many people go right to their emails first thing in the morning, and get drawn in.  You will end up at inbox zero, but accomplish nothing.  When you wake up, drink water to rehydrate, eat a god breakfast to replenish your glucose, then set prioritized goals for the rest of your day.  Only after that, check email. 


Work In 60 – 90 Minute Intervals.

Your brain thrives on glucose.  Typically, you spend most of it after 60 – 90 minutes.  This is why you feel burned-out after long meetings.  So take a break.  Get up, go for a little walk, have a snack, do something completely different to recharge.  And yes, that means you’ll need about an extra hour for breaks during the day, not including lunch, so if you’re required to work 8 hours per day, plan on being there for 9.5 – 10 hours.


Final point

Read these tips each morning to start your work day, as a reminder of what enhances productivity; revise them as needed (but keep the number at 7 basic tips); and see how you enhance your productivity after one week.

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