We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Yet, some people accomplish a lot more than others. It’s easy to think the reason is that some manage their time better. But that’s just part of the larger picture.
Even if you make use of the tiny bits of time here and there, you might not accomplish that much. What matters, even more, is your attention. How you manage your attention impacts the quality of your life more than any other variable.
How often do you feel fulfilled after replying to messages on Facebook while writing an email, listening to music, and talking to your partner? Probably never, right?
How often do you feel fulfilled after having spent an hour reading? Or Studying? Or developing a project? Quite often I’d guess.
The difference isn’t in the quality of the tasks, it’s in the attention you’ve put in it.
Even playing an interesting game could make your day better. Why? Because all your attention is directed towards it. The rest of the world doesn’t matter while you are concentrated on the game.
Think back to the best first dates you have lived. You talked, laughed, and learned about the other. What weren’t you doing? Replying to messages, thinking about tomorrow, or checking YouTube. All your attention was directed towards this potential partner in front of you.
I remember clearly my first date with my ex-girlfriend. We went on a small one-day trip in the mountains and went to a sort of resort park. We played like kids in some labyrinths, climbed, took many pictures, talked about flowers, where she had been to, how we could have met 7 years earlier when we were in the same university. The list could go on quite a bit. I can still close my eyes and remember it.
What weren’t we doing? Thinking about other people, about work, about our worries. It was also one of the first times I put my phone in complete silent mode. I wanted my time to be for her. All our attention was directed toward each other.
This is the mindset we all need in order to accomplish anything.
Make a decision to turn your attention toward something specific. Put on hold other thoughts and focus on that one thing.
A few tricks to get rid of other thoughts
The goal is to direct your attention toward one specific thing. You need to let go of the rest. I have found the below to work well for me but let me know if you have more ideas!
- Writing down what bothers me.— Externalizing what’s on your mind
- Listening to non-disturbing sounds.— Not music. Sounds. Music varies and grabs your attention. Sounds like a river or fire are consistent.
- Put specific words on the task at hand. — If you can’t put it into words, it can’t expand and take the space in your head.
- Accept that some thoughts will still pop. — That’s not always the case, but accepting failure before it even occurs help noticing it and let go.
- Keep the most important task for a peak period. — Some hours of the day will be better for creative endeavors or more analytic tasks for example.
“Know that all times are not created equal” — Daniel H. Pink
Learn to manage your thoughts and turn your attention to the right thing at the right moment. Don’t let anybody tell you one is better than another. You have your own rhythm, your own style. Try things out and find what works for you.
Only then will you be able to accomplish more, in those 24 hours we all have.
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Mathias Barra is a French polyglot living in Japan, who has learned 6 languages and dabbled in many others. Being a curious child full of wonders is how he keeps on learning and can’t stop sharing every tiny idea or discovery.