- reposted from the New York Times
By Tim HerreraUpdated Dec. 26, 2019
Time to focus.
This year we learned that the key to doing the things we want to accomplish isn’t time management, but rather attention management. Instead of rigorously scheduling every minute of your day around tasks and to-do lists, approach work more from the perspective of: What are the things I care about, and what are the things I want to devote my attention to?
It seems like a small, arbitrary word-swap, but when you’re truthful with yourself about the things that take up your attention — and whether those are the things you’re truly content with giving your attention to — you might realize that solely thinking about work in terms of time spent isn’t the best approach.
Etymologically, “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against our better judgment.
“It’s self-harm,” said Dr. Piers Steel, a professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary and the author of “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done.”
That self-awareness is a key part of why procrastinating makes us feel so rotten. When we procrastinate, we’re not only aware that we’re avoiding the task in question, but also that doing so is probably a bad idea. And yet, we do it anyway.
“This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational,” said Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield. “It doesn’t make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences.” Read more >>
Don’t fall for prescrastination, or tackling things before the time is right.
What’s so hard about not jumping the gun?
One explanation is evolution. If you don’t grab the low-hanging fruit now, it might not be there later. You could run out of time to complete a task, or forget about it altogether. Carpe diem, right?
“I actually interrupt people a lot because otherwise I’m afraid I won’t remember what I was going to say,” Dr. Fournier said. Read more >>
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Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments. Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes. Read more >>
‘Deep work’ is a term for focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It describes, in other words, when you’re really locked into doing something hard with your mind. In order for a session to count as deep work there must be zero distractions. Even a quick glance at your phone or email inbox can significantly reduce your performance due to the cost of context switching.
The idea here is that if you want to successfully integrate more deep work into your professional life, you cannot just wait until you find yourself with lots of free time and in the mood to concentrate. You have to actively fight to incorporate this into your schedule. It helps, for example, to include deep work blocks on a calendar like meetings or appointments, and then protect them as you would a meeting or appointment. Read more >>
Making ourselves inaccessible from time to time is essential to boosting our focus. A 2017 survey from the American Psychological Association found that being constantly and permanently reachable on an electronic device — checking work emails on your day off; continuously cycling through social media feeds; responding to text messages at all hours — is associated with higher stress levels.
Half-paying attention to everything means you’re not able to fully pay attention to anything. And that kind of task switching comes with a cost. Read more >>
“At some point, we must remind ourselves, any changes we make to a creation no longer make it better but just different (and sometimes worse),” Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote in Psychology Today on the topic of just getting things done. “Recognizing that inflection point — the point at which our continuing to rework our work reaches a law of diminishing returns — is one of the hardest skills to learn, but also one of the most necessary.”
One solution? The M.F.D., or the Mostly Fine Decision. (Patent still pending.)
The M.F.D. is the minimum outcome you’re willing to accept as a consequence of a decision. It’s what you’d be perfectly fine with, rather than the outcome that would be perfect. The root of the M.F.D. lies in the difference between maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers relentlessly research all possible options in a scenario for fear of missing the “best” one, while satisficers make quick decisions based on less research. Read more >>