While your goal to be the world’s best manager is well-intended, coaching your team on the path to sky-high productivity isn’t always clear or easy. With the slew of digital notifications, distracting home-office environments, and competing priorities, it’s no wonder your employees are struggling to focus and get ahead on their tasks or projects.
Let’s be honest—as a manager, it can be difficult to conquer your own to-do list some days. Those pings and dings on Slack and email are distractions for you as well. It’s your responsibility to set your team up to be productive and high-performing, but this can be a challenge when your team doesn’t have the tools or techniques to meet your expectations. Many productivity tips are focused on how employees can better manage their time, but the true secret is how effective your team manages their attention.
Discover how learning and coaching your team on attention management methods can help everyone ditch the distractions and focus on what’s most important.
How Attention Management Techniques Can Create Happier And More Productive Employees
If you and your team feel more like a distracted pack of golden retrievers rather than a focused team dedicated to their work and company goals, you’re far from alone.
According to a survey by Udemy, nearly 70% of workers feel distracted when they’re on the clock. However, 66% of workers have never discussed potential solutions to address workplace distraction with their managers.
A study by UC Irvine uncovered some common consequences of an unfocused team: "People compensate for interruptions by working faster, but this comes at a price: more stress, higher frustration, time pressure, and effort. In addition to the negative emotional impacts on employees, businesses also feel the consequences since even the briefest interruptions can double a worker's error rate."
The good news? The same Udemy survey found that when workplace distractions are reduced through training or policies, 75% of employees were more productive, 57% had increased motivation, and 49% became happier at work.
As a manager, you have the opportunity and responsibility to open lines of communication with your team about their feelings of distraction and offer them solutions. Despite there being no singular magic ingredient you can add to your recipe for ultimate team success, there are ways to help your team manage their attention while working through tasks and elevate team productivity levels overall.
5 Ways To Improve Attention Management On Your Team
In a hustle-obsessed world, employees who attend more meetings or clock the most hours can be seen as the most productive ones on the team. However, busyness isn’t a badge of honor. Instead, managers have the opportunity to measure their employees on their outcomes and great results require employees to be able to focus and put in their best efforts.
“Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moment,” says Adam Grant, an author, organizational psychologist, and professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Make it a goal to train your team on these five attention management techniques in order to train your team to improve their focus and create more mindful work.
1. Break Projects Down Into Bite-Sized Tasks
Have you ever driven to the gym only to delay your workout by sitting in the car and scrolling through Instagram for 10 minutes? Similarly, as your team looks at their to-do lists each week, they may be thinking to themselves: “This is too daunting, let me cope with a distraction.”
A simple method for making big projects less intimidating is to break them down into smaller, bite-sized tasks. During your upcoming 1:1 meetings with your employees, ask them to show you their most daunting project for that week, and help them break it down into smaller portions that can be fully completed by the end of each workday.
Instead of their Monday to-do list stating: ‘Launch Next Big Product Feature’ revise it to say ‘Outline Week 1 of Launch Plan.’ Understandably, a person is much more likely to jump into a task when they can envision themselves completing it.
2. Designate Breaks And Stopping Points
The proverb ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ forgot to mention other adjectives that Jack probably feels, like stress, fatigue, and frustration. While sitting heads-down at a desk for 9 hours each day may have your team feeling like their productivity is skyrocketing, that’s probably not the case. Your team may be “working” in the physical sense (as in stationed at their workspace or in front of their computer), but the amount of work they’re actually getting done may start to plummet if they don’t give their brain a break.
William Helton, Ph.D., Professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, completed a study that found focusing attention for too long causes a decline in performance and a depletion of energy.
Coach your team on the importance of stepping away from their work to allow their minds to rest and recharge. You can do this by helping them build breaks and stopping points into their day by blocking off 30-minute personal breaks in their calendar—at least two for every 4 hours of work. After all, a rested and recharged mind will inevitably perform better when the time comes to go heads-down on a task.
⭐️ Pro Tip: With the Wellness Coach Enterprise plan, you can invite your team to a Live Meditation class right from the web app. Simply open any live session, add it to your preferred calendar, and invite the team so everyone remembers to take a much-needed break. You can also add Wellness Coach to your Slack channel so the whole team can receive daily meditations and beautiful inspirational quotes.
3. Create A Focused Work Environment
While it’s important to take breaks during the workday, it’s just as important to make sure that the time dedicated to working is uninterrupted as much as possible. Distractions can take many forms on remote teams—ranging from texts, Slack, or email notifications to dogs barking or children barging into your home office. Co-located teams face distractions, too—the biggest culprit being unplanned office socialization.
One way you can help your team set themselves up for success is by modeling what a focused environment looks like. For example, by communicating with your team that, during certain hours, you will be turning notifications off in order to focus on important tasks, your team will learn to follow suit.
Additionally, you can train your team on how to take control of their work environment by coaching them on these tactics:
- Place your phone in another room to avoid social media scrolling.
- Turn off notifications during dedicated focus-time.
- Set boundaries with team members. For example, set your Slack status as ‘Do Not disturb’ or send a group message letting your team know that you will be unavailable until a certain time.
- Tidy up your desk—a cluttered environment causes a cluttered mind.
- Coach remote teams on the importance of setting expectations and boundaries with family members regarding a home office space and working hours.
4. Manage Energy Sources
Though environments play a huge factor in how focused your team can be, it’s key to tap into their minds and bodies as well.
“People who exercise regularly are 50% less likely to develop dementia, and now we know one reason why: when we exercise, new brain cells are born in the hippocampus—the brain's gateway to new memories,” explains Karen Postal Ph.D., Harvard Medical School Professor of Neuropsychology.
Not only does exercise affect your ability to remember information, Dr. Postal also goes on to explain in her research that aerobic exercise immediately results in improved focus and concentration. In other words, after a half-hour sweat session, the brain works harder to resist distractions and improves its attention performance.
Shortly put, exercise not only strengthens your body but also your brain. Before an extra-stressful week or project, get your team moving by blocking out time for a virtual team fitness class on Wellness Coach or encourage them to step away from their computers to go out for a walk. The combination of breaks and exercise will allow your team to feel refreshed, energized, and ready to focus on their next task or project.
5. Become More Mindful
With so many distractions at your fingertips, finding your focus can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Luckily, researchers are proving that as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can help turn the tide away from distractions and the benefits can occur the moment you begin the practice. Rather than the dozens of tasks, notifications, and meetings controlling your thoughts, meditation encourages the mind to temporarily focus on one simple act: breathing.
Daniel Goleman, Psychologist and Science Journalist claims meditation can strengthen our brain’s ability to return to a focused state. He explains:
“Bringing attention back to the breath each time you feel your mind wandering during meditation helps strengthen the brain’s neural circuitry for focus.”
Translating that into daily life, people who engage in regular meditation practice will have better distraction resiliency—otherwise known as the ability to come back to the task at hand and stay more focused after a distraction occurs.
You and your team can get started with meditation with only a few minutes per day. Take the opportunity to introduce the practice to your team by starting or ending every team meeting with a 5-minute meditation. It’s a simple technique once mastered, but it takes practice. Since consistency is key, you can also incorporate the practice of mindfulness meditation in your workplace culture by scheduling a weekly team session with an expert meditation coach.
Encourage Focus Time On Your Team
A team that’s able to control their attention is a more productive team, and commanding your own attention is done by understanding what your brain and body need to thrive. Implement these techniques and wellness tips into your management strategies so you can support your team to become their most focused, productive, and happy selves.
Our live fitness, meditation, and yoga classes aim to help your team achieve their goals through wellness—book one for your team today.