1) It’s easy to get distracted.
In the last hour, my avoidance behavior has included checking email, scheduling a haircut, and eating almonds.
I don’t even like almonds.
The challenge is to focus. What are you paying attention to? What should you be paying attention to?
2) Your attention shapes you—and others.
“When a pickpocket walks down a street,” says a proverb, “all he sees are the pockets.”
The boundaries of your life are determined by your attention. Sometimes we obsess about small things; we get small.
And if you’re a leader, others pay attention to you. What you say, and what you do define what’s important.
What do you say is important?
3) Assume non-attention.
Attention spans are shrinking. There’s too much information, too much noise. So just because you said something, doesn’t mean anyone heard it.
Imagine, the next time you talk, that instead of info, you’re delivering a truckload of furniture. Here’s the problem: the other person’s house is already fully furnished.
Where are they going to put all your stuff? They don’t even hear you ring the doorbell.
4) Attention is a scarce resource; people kill for it.
We forget the value of paying attention to others. Managers, when coaching employees, often think they have to provide advice and make suggestions—and sometimes that’s useful.
But there’s power to just listening. Listen well, and others will say you have “presence.”
Are you present?
5) It’s not enough to pay attention.
You’ve also got to look like you’re paying attention.
“I was surprised,” a manager told me recently, “to discover how negatively people viewed my texting during meetings.”
Maybe you can multi-task, maybe you can’t (neuroscientists say you can’t), but either way, the optics are bad.
6) Attention can be practiced, and developed. Could make you happier.
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” say Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert.
Their research suggests that focusing on what you’re doing, even if it’s just washing the dishes, correlates with happiness.
7) Your attention needs to be refreshed. Often.
Take frequent breaks—shift your attention, away from thoughts, to here-and-now sensory experience. Stand up and stretch, go for a walk, listen to music.
No effort required, just stop for a minute or so.
P.S. TO CAPTURE ATTENTION, whether giving a presentation, talking with colleagues, or muttering to yourself, consider:
Virtual workshop—I’ve been leading Dynamic Speaking, a four-session course for small teams. We practice how to get heard, get remembered, and get results.
Webinars—e.g. The Power of Presence; Your Point?—Be Concise; Resilience @ Work; Stories that Work . . . Click here for all 12 programs.
1-1 Coaching—Got an important, upcoming communication? I’ll help you with design (what to say) and/or delivery (how to say it with presence). Click here for details.
P.P.S. Or try my latest book: You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World. Selected by a Fortune 50 company for their book club, translated into five languages, available in print , kindle, audio.
PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful.
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