Most leaders don’t pay enough attention to where they focus their attention currency. Attention is invisible but critically important in our daily workplace experience. I have been an Executive Coach for over 20 years and have never experienced leaders more distracted than now. Working from home means greater reliance on information coming in from multiple avenues (Slack, Zoom/Team meetings, emails, text etc). Phone notifications pinging, Alexa sounds an alarm for a child’s online school sessions, another email urgent request pops up —it’s a dizzying, crazy making environment absolutely full of distractions. We end up ping ponging all day long, like Pavlov’s dog, from one distraction to the next.
We don’t start each day with an infinite amount of focus time. Our focus time each day is limited. Think of your attention as currency. Everything you unconsciously take action around is an expenditure transaction—calling someone, reading an article or scrolling through your phone notifications. You are spending out of your expensive attention bank account. What I am suggesting is to become protective about how you spend your precious focus time. How you spend your daily very limited attention chits matters. Remember when you chose to pay attention to one thing—something else is being ignored.
3 coaching tips to guard your attention bank account.
#1 Be mindful and intentional about where you put your attention. One of the questions I ask leaders regularly is what is your current #1 most important priority? If you are a leader, your people must be an attention priority. Do your people have what they need today to be successful? Are they aligned with the right priorities and goals? Leaders should prioritize creating and supporting clarity and order for their direct reports and teams. Too many leaders get sucked into their own task execution or distraction minutia vs. supporting their team’s success. If you have a one on one with a team member, give them the benefit of your full attention when on the call.
#2 Start your day with a 10-minute check in with yourself. Write out what you most need to accomplish today. Ask yourself what is that you can’t put your head on the pillow tonight before accomplishing? Schedule time to complete anything that is a must do for the day and prioritize these tasks.
#3 Schedule uninterrupted thinking time each day. For most professionals, any time we are generating content, presentations, strategy and/or putting a plan together we need uninterrupted thinking time to accomplish it. Research says we need blocks of 45 minutes in our day when a task requires our focus (30 minutes isn’t long enough to get the most out of your internal brainstorming and creative functions and most people naturally start to fatigue after 45 minutes of concentrated focus).
You are the only one who can control where you spend your attention currency. Choose wisely about how you spend out of your attention bank account. Leaders can bankrupt it if leaders don’t focus their attention currency .