Lucas Brenner » Articles » How to Use Attention Better



Conscious Concentration

Besides time and willpower, your attention is the most valuable personal resource. Every day you have only a certain amount of it. While there are strategies that can be used to increase or regenerate your attention, the amount still remains limited.

The most important strategy for making better use of your attention is to use it consciously. There is no such thing as unconscious focus. You do not accidentally focus on a task. You should be aware of what you focus on at all times.

Of course, it's okay to distract yourself with social media or Netflix. However, this should be done as a conscious decision and not impulsive.

Those who consciously decide on what they want to focus are more productive and efficient during working hours and can also make better use of their free time. Also, mindfulness gets you closer to the goals that are more important than productivity.

Evaluate Your Own Attention

To be able to concentrate consciously, you must be able to distinguish between different types of information.[1]

I try to be able to evaluate which level of this scale I am on at any given time. To do this, I use the idea of seeing myself from the outside. What would a observer think about my own actions? How would my own actions be portrayed in a documentary film about my life?

The higher the quality of the information consumed in general, the better. Nevertheless, it is of course impossible to consume only high-quality information. Therefore, it's perfectly fine to consume entertaining or useless information when you need to recover.

But it is important that the balance between information types is appropriate. Useless information should make up a rather small portion, while useful information should be consumed more frequently.

You can save particularly high-quality information in your text playlist.

Plan Creative Breaks

Everyone needs regular and restful breaks. In order not to forget resting during work due to stress or deadline pressure, you should schedule breaks early on. You can recharge your batteries, be more productive afterwards, and your brain connects different thoughts with each other while you let your thoughts run free, so that new ideas and concepts emerge.[2]

However, especially on stressful days, breaks feel counterproductive and inappropriate. But especially when you have a lot to do, you shouldn't forego breaks. The disadvantages of overwork and fatigue are far too great, and the time needed to recover is made up for by increased performance.

During breaks, you should not engage in activities related to work, duty or discipline. You should do something that you enjoy doing and that allows you to relax, such as going for a walk or reading a novel.

The advantage of these activities is that you can let your mind wander. This is great for creativity and problem solving. After the break, you are refreshed, inspired and may even have found a solution to a challenge you face.

Even if it is sometimes difficult, you should take regular breaks and switch off. This is the only way to keep your workload healthy and sustainable in the long run.



Footnotes

[1] Chris Bailey goes into more detail about the different types of information, but also about the topic of attention in general, in his book “Hyperfocus.”

[2] Chris Bailey calls this process “Scatterfocus” in his book.