A distracted team is not an effective team. Not paying attention can lead to careless mistakes and valuable time wasted. Attention Management is a useful skill that team managers can employ to connect with their team on an emotional level and to motivate them to focus on the team goals. Attention Management increases the team’s ability to focus attention and involves an awareness of where they focus most of their attention.
Attention can be divided into four different areas:
- Intentional – Team plans strategically and prioritizes their activities.
- Responsive – The team responds to the world around them and spends more time putting out fires than working intentionally.
- Interrupted – Team spends too much time answering messages and handling situations that interrupt their work.
- Unproductive – Team wastes time outside of scheduled breaks.
Various Types of Attention
Different situations call for different types of attention. To manage attention in your team it is essential to understand the various types of attention and how each type functions.
Focused attention is the type of attention that concentrates on a single task and excludes everything else. This type of attention is difficult to maintain and makes people tired.
Sustained attention is also called attention span and is used when a person has to focus on a task that takes time to complete. The biggest enemy of sustained attention is distractions. In order to sustain attention, it is important to remove distractions and occasionally refocus.
Selective attention is the type of attention that focuses on a single stimulus in a complex setting. Having a conversation in a crowded restaurant is an example of practising selective attention. It includes the ability to filter out background noise and focusing on what is essential.
When someone has to perform two tasks at the same time that require different cognitive abilities, alternating attention is required. Alternating attention requires the mind to be flexible and able to move seamlessly between one task and another.
There are various methods that can be used by your team to train their attention. Each team member is different, and it is important to find a method that works best for each individual.
Attention management requires team members to focus and execute. When the team focuses on potential negative outcomes, it makes it difficult for the team to execute a plan well. Remaining positive will help the team to focus on its goals and execute their actions accordingly.
Visualization is the habit of creating a mental picture of the goal and believing it will happen. Visualizing the goal allows the mind to accept it as a concrete possibility and not just a vague wish.
- Choose a specific goal.
- Find time to relax and focus.
- Visualize the goal in detail and see it happening in the present.
- Accept and believe that the goal will come true.
People in the reactive zone spend most of their time putting out fires and handling urgent needs. These tasks are important, but they take time away from scheduled projects. While it is normal to have to handle a crisis occasionally, going from crises to crises should not become a way of life. In order for team members to move out of the reactive zone and stay in the proactive zone, they need to address the time they spend in the distracted and wasteful zones.
The proactive zone is where you want your team to operate most of the time. Teams in the zone work strategically and are able to plan and achieve goals. Time spend in the proactive zone reduces the amount of time spent in the reactive zone. Review the team goals and plan accordingly to improve performance the proactive zone.
Things in the distraction zone seem urgent, but they are not really important. Things like phone calls, emails and other people who monopolize your attention, fall under the distracted zone. Important time and energy is given to other people’s priorities rather than team goals.
This zone is filled with activities that waste time such as personal emails, social media, online videos and other unproductive activities. People need to occasionally decompress and when time to relax and regroup is not on the team’s schedule, more time will be spent in the wasteful zone. Team building activities are one of the most effective ways you can help your team to relax and regroup.
Keeping Your Team Focused
The One Minute Rule
The one minute rule is helpful for getting the little things done that you never seem to get to. The rule advises team members to complete any task that only takes a minute. This minute does not really cut into your schedule, and saves you time in the long run.
The Five Minute Rule
The five minute rule advises team members to allow at least five minutes between tasks when planning your schedule. This buffer will provide time to complete one task before transitioning to another.
Keeping Focused When You Feel Overwhelmed
When you feel overwhelmed, it is important not to let your feelings control your actions. The following steps will help you regain focus when you start feeling overwhelmed:
- Slow down and take a moment to relax and think.
- Plan to take a five-minute break for every hour of work.
- Break tasks into smaller steps.
- Get enough rest to ensure you think critically.
TBAE’s Hitting the Target team building event is ideal for helping your team become more focused and working together as a unit. The event also emphasizes the importance of accuracy and correct decision making. It consists of a number of challenges that tests your team’s aim and targeting skills.