Bad news: Your planner is outdated. Yeah, we know you checked the date. It’s still 2020. But as Fast Company reports, traditional time management—i.e., scheduling—doesn’t yield much in terms of productivity. That’s because it doesn’t take into consideration modern life and all the Slack notifications that come with it.
Instead of to-do lists and time blocks, there’s a strong case to be made for planning by attention state. In the book, Attention Management: How to Create Success and Gain Productivity—Every Day, Maura Nevel Thomas lays out the 4 brain states and how to harness them for peak productivity.
Reactive and Distracted: You have a thousand browser windows open and every notification ping gets your attention. Alas, this is how most of us spend most of our time. It might be fine to be in this state for tedious tasks, but you know you aren’t getting much done here.
Daydreaming: In this state, you’re making a real choice not to focus on any one thing. Don’t feel guilty. Daydreaming helps renew the brain. Good opportunities for daydreaming are when you’re waiting in line or walking to a meeting.
Focused and Mindful: Here, you are making a point to ignore distractions and power through the tasks at hand. Some prime times include when you’re in a job interview or when you’re taking on a creative task.
Flow: And this is when you hit the sweet spot of laser focus. You’re able to disengage from everything but the task at hand.
With attention management, your goal is to examine what it takes—attention-wise—for you to complete certain tasks, and then plan blocks of time accordingly. So, someone working in creative might schedule time to walk and daydream. A project manager, meanwhile, might schedule a day or two to work from home and get into that flow state.