How to manage your attention at work

by Sue Gray | 15 May 2020

Sue Gray, Senior Trainer of The Mental Health Toolkit by Suffolk Mind, explains how to manage your attention at work, and how to deal with attention vampires while you’re working.

I’ve just sat for a minute or so and watched my cat wash her paw – each pad given individual attention – then something caught her attention, she stopped mid-lick and walked off paw half clean.

Attention is an essential resource – to get jobs done, to give to people, to understand things, to connect. We give it and we receive it – switching it on and off – sometimes consciously, often unconsciously.

Do you feel more tired and less focused at the moment? Many people are saying they are a lot more tired and feel less able to focus, and that they’re being less productive at work and are not sure why.

What’s all that about? It’s not like a load of people have suddenly become lazy and ineffective for no good reason.

Attention is an innate essential need we all need to get enough of in a healthy and balanced way. And it’s a finite resource: it runs out and needs to be replenished by rest, privacy and sleep. Have you noticed that if you’ve given focus and attention to tasks and people all day at work (face-to-face or online) when you come home you just don’t have enough to give to your partner or children? How does that feel?

Working online or in the office is taking more of your attention than you might realise, and that can leave you feeling the lack of it.

So try this – Five a Day for boosting Attention at work:

  1. Stop and check how you are – every hour for 3 breaths (set a time?). Relax your face and shoulders and breathe 3 times into your belly, looking away from any screen. Takes 30 seconds.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time – multi-tasking takes up more of your attention juices.
  3. Look out for attention vampires – e.g. your phone (attention is what the advertisers are buying). Find ways to relax and connect other than social media, maybe meet a friend for a socially-distanced walk around the block for 10 minutes.
  4. Take work and rest sandwiches – try the Pomodoro method, setting a timer for 25 mins then get up and do something different for 5 minutes.
  5. Privacy / Reflection time / Sleep – we are all different, but ensure you find a way to get enough for you.
by Sue Gray
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