Getting Your Attention / Part 6

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How do we prioritize what really matters and ensure that our top responsibilities receive A+ effort? See below for three more ways to help keep our minds focused, allowing us to work smarter, not harder.

16. Warm Up The Muscle
According to most of my attention rules, I should postpone email and web surfing until I’ve completed the most mentally exhausting tasks of my day. But what if something crazy has happened in the world?! Think of all the people who might have emailed or commented on my Facebook post? My social status and craving for stimulation is just too much to ignore after hours of being deprived due to my body’s ridiculous demand for sleep.

Here’s one antidote for these nagging thoughts: I‘ve found that a short e-warm up lap is exactly what I need before I dive into a full day of mental Crossfit. I get my daily sports updates, check out my inbox, take a shot of coffee, then get to the work of setting the day’s priorities. The key? I limit this time to a ten minute warm-up. The bell goes off and the sprints and metaphorical burpees begin.

17. No Toys At Bedtime
My parents wouldn’t allow me to have my GI-Joes in bed for a simple reason: it kept me from falling asleep. As adults, we are guilty of the same mistake. When we use our phones to work while in bed, we mentally shift back to the problems of the day. Nothing wrecks sleep quicker and more slowly erodes our capacity for focus.

Overcoming the endlessly available digital distractions requires significant mental executive control. If you aren’t sleeping well, you will not have what you need to be excellent at your job. It’s time to keep the toys out of our beds.

18. Have A Calendar-Centric Computer
Copernicus famously told the world that the sun was the center of the galaxy, even though everyone still believed it was the earth. In the Copernican spirit, I say you should put your calendar at the center of your computer screen even though everyone else goes on prioritizing email. Simon Reynolds, a friend and bestselling author of the book ‘Why People Fail’ offered this to me, and it’s been game changing.

While prioritized task lists are a huge step up from the ‘let my newest email tell me what’s important’ strategy, it’s not enough. Take your priorities and assign time chunks to cover each one. Your calendar, rather than your inbox or task list should now be the primary ‘screen’ on your computer. As I use Google Calendars, I literally watch as the redline slides down my screen, reminding me that I am running out of time on this task before I must move to the next. For example, I have seven more minutes dedicated to finishing this article. This causes my brain to release the right concoction of chemicals/neurotransmitters to work as though I can’t procrastinate any more — as though I’m up against a tight deadline.

Miss previous distraction tips? Find them all, here.

Image via Chelsie Autumn Photography


Curt loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

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