There are four different attention zones: Reactive, Proactive, Distracted and Wasteful. The attention zone determines productivity as well as stress levels. Attention management allows teams to move out of stressful or unproductive zones and manage their time wisely.
Many people, particularly team leaders, spend most of their time in the reactive zone. Those in the reactive zone spend their time putting out fires and handling urgent needs. The tasks are important, but they demand time that takes away from scheduled projects. An example would be finding someone to fill in for a sick employee. The task is important and demands immediate attention, but it does not help the team leader meet any of his or her goals or deadlines. Occasionally, a crisis will need to be handled, but attending to one crisis after another should never be a way of life. In order for the team 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 the team wants to be. Teams in this zone work strategically. They are able to plan and achieve goals. Spending time in the proactive zone reduces the amount of time that is spent in the reactive zone because contingency plans will be in place. The proactive zone maintains relationships, budgets, systems, and personal well-being. Review team goals and plan accordingly at the beginning of each week to improve performance in the proactive zone.
The distracted zone takes up far too much time. Things in this zone seem urgent, but they are not really important. The distracted zone occurs when other people monopolize the team’s attention. Things like emails and phone calls fall under the distracted zone. Important time and energy is given to other people’s priorities rather than team goals.
Leaving the distracted zone:
- Turn off email alert: Emails do not always need to be answered immediately. Constant email alerts are distractions that take teams out of the proactive zone.
- Create a time-blocked schedule: Schedule time to return phone calls and emails and build relationships. Work on projects during the time set aside for them, and do not allow yourself to become distracted by other people.
- Set boundaries: Stick to the schedule. Do not allow people to draw you away unless it is a real Be firm, and people will learn to respect your schedule.
The wasteful zone is exactly what it sounds like, the zone where teams waste time. Activities that waste time include checking personal email, looking at social media sites, online videos, and other activities that are not productive. It is important to note that people need to occasionally decompress. When time to relax and regroup is not included in a team’s schedule, more time will be spent in the wasteful zone.
Leaving the wasteful zone:
- Schedule personal time: Take the time to relax, meditate, eat, and socialize. It is not possible to continually focus on a single task, so schedule breaks and take them. It will increase productivity and prevent the need for mind numbing activities.
- Limit temptation: Internet junkies should turn off their connection when they do not need the Internet, if possible. Turn off mobile devices when working, and indulge pastimes only when appropriate. Remind yourself that the wasteful zone keeps you out of the proactive zone and away from your goals.