A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that focused attention is strongly related to creative performance (Beaty, Seli, & Schacter, 2019). Without the ability to focus, creative performance is nearly impossible. It doesn’t’t stop with creativity. In order for our brain to produce any level of quality thoughts or actions, we need to be able to manage our attention. I recently read a book that provides a boatload of helpful suggestions.
Attention management and productivity thought leader, Maura Nevel Thomas’ new book (https://amzn.to/2Bukt9n) proved a quick read with some potent points for managing our attention and consequently increasing both productivity and success—and perhaps creativity as well.
She offers a unique take on “attention management” and a definition that takes it far beyond just “focus.“ I found this useful and her argument compelling. I also found her suggestions for battling the distractions of technology especially helpful, so I’ll share a quick summary of her ideas.
Her first reminder is that “every device has an off button!” Personally, I’m constantly distracted by unnecessary alerts and notifications screaming at me from every one of my tech devices. If I truly need an alert or alarm, I can turn a device back on. I started turning devices off a few days ago, and it is already paying dividends (like writing this blog with full attention and no distractions :-). A second suggestion: my phone has a Do Not Disturb mode. Did not know that! Third, my phone now goes to vibrate when I’m in public so as not to distract others and from vibrate to silent when I don’t want to be disturbed by others. Use ‘airplane mode’ more often was her fourth suggestion, especially at times you cannot (or should not) answer the phone. You can still access all the other phone features you may need in airplane mode but not be interrupted with incoming calls and messages. Fifth, stay off-line when working on your computer to avoid email and other alerts. Go on-line only when specifically working through emails or using the internet. Finally, shut off all but only the most critical notifications on your devices.
I’ve adopted one other strategy for controlling my technology : when out and about, I smell the roses and appreciate the life around me rather than constantly checking my phone.
To close, I will quote Thomas: “In a world that’s getting more frenetic and reactive, you can take a stand for thoughtfulness, for balance and for meaningful work by practicing attention management.” Hear! Hear!
Beaty, R. E., Seli, P., & Schacter, D. L. (2019). Network neuroscience of creative cognition: Mapping cognitive mechanisms and individual differences in the creative brain. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 27, 22–30.
Thomas, M. N. (2019). Attention Management: How to Create Success and Gain Productivity Every Day. Sourcebooks: Naperville, Illinois.