How do I: deal with low attention spans

When there are a lot of distractions going on, it is hard to retain anyone’s attention. So how do I deal with periods of time like this?

People are busy. So am I. If you want someone’s attention, ping them on a scheduled basis to see when you can schedule a short amount of time with them. Now is not likely the best time and you will quickly realize that when asking for their time.

Scheduling short meetings will help retain more focus and attention than hour (or longer) droning meetings. Imagine if you cut the chatter out completely and limited meetings to 15 total minutes or 30 total minutes. The people who need to make a point will get to it much faster than during a 1 to 2 hour meeting.

Need a 5-minute buffer between calls for a breather, a bathroom break or to get a beverage? Add the 5 minutes to your schedule and cut the meeting to 25 minutes instead. Emphasize that hard stop time in the beginning of the meeting. Give a reminder when all of you have 5 minutes left and hold to the scheduled end time as if it was your religion. Need more time? Schedule another block of time in the future. Make sure to get to points you need to cover and add those to a meeting agenda beforehand as a prequel for everyone to prepare as needed.

Now imagine if only the people who need to be there are invited and everyone starts on time regardless of stragglers or late people (no matter how important they might be). Record the decisions made and email it to people who need to know. If decision-makers are not there, no sense in being in the meeting at all. Just reschedule. If decisions don’t need to be made, email the update, and don’t waste time with a meeting. If you need to verbally tell lots of people something, video record it and send it to them. Fewer distractions. More focus. This is easier when everyone is remote and you don’t have to waste time walking to any meeting room or waiting for it to clear out from the last meeting. I don’t miss the useless office.

This goes for home life too. Schedule time with your loved ones as well as friends and be clear when they get your scheduled attention. They will hold you to it since it should work for all parties or reschedule.

If you notice your metrics (social media traffic, website traffic, emails directed personally to you) drop significantly, it will be noticeable and it often happens seasonally. For example, the last week of the year or just before a major holiday or during the last weeks of an election, don’t expect anyone’s attention nor true focus. Their mind is elsewhere. Schedule a time afterward.

If you do find the time, focus, and ideas to work on, take that less disrupted time to work on self-assigned projects that mean something to you.

Shiny objects will keep appearing. Everyone is out to steal your attention away from you. Guard your time by ruthlessly filtering out distractions that you have no control over. Realize what you do and don’t control among the many things that take your attention and time away from you. What do you want to do with your own time and attention?

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