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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

One strategy you’ll want to know to be less stressed and more focused at work and life!

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 22nd 2008

multitaskingFor a very long time the common message people are told is that they need to have better time management. When I didn't get things done on time, I used to always be told "you just don't manage your time well". Time management implies that if we work harder and smarter we'll be more successful in work and life. The problem is that there is an increasing amount of information and demand in our culture right now so many people are simply overwhelmed with it all. There is so much to pay attention to in this new 24X7 work world and we have become an ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) nation. This lack of awareness on where to place our attention leads to increased stress, anxiety, and lack of focus which inhibits us actually being effective in work and life.

Instead of doing more things faster, we need to learn how to do the most important things really well. That is the key to being effective in today's day and age. So the issue isn't how to manage your time, the issue is more about managing your attention with the most important things in work and life.

The common misperception is that we need to be moving fast and with a sense of urgency. This may make us feel important for a while because we're putting out fires, but it's getting in our way of being effective in the long run. The first thing we need to do is learn how to actually slow down for a period of time to reflect on what is most important to us in work and life. For work, what are the most important projects to focus on that need to get done to move forward? For life, you might ask yourself, if I was looking back on my life many years from now on my deathbed, who would I have wished I had spent more time with, what would I have wished I had done different? Give yourself this one gift of scheduling 30 minutes or an hour to write down what is most important to you.

Now here's the stickler. Earlier I wrote a blog on self control and compared it to a muscle, needing to be worked out to gain strength. In this day and age, time management isn't even close to as important as attention management. The exercise above will help you key in on what is most imporant and then you need to work the attention management muscle to be able to come back to it again and again in the face of massive distraction. So how do we exercise this muscle of attention management? Many of you who have been following my blogs know I am a big fan of mindfulness practices. These practices are extremely practical in working the muscle of attention management and at the same time giving you the gift of greater self awareness of how your mind and body keeps you stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, or bad habits. Also, for many, doing these practices provide a sense of peace and calm during a very hectic day.

Click here, then scroll down to take a step and try a sample of one of these practices on that will begin to strengthen your muscle of attention management.

As always, feel free to comment below and let the community of people here know what your thoughts are on this. Perhaps you tried it before or this is your first time. Share your thoughts or what works or doesn't work for you.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Effectiveness rather than efficiency - Kell - Oct 27th 2008

Great article. Time management is really an oxymoron. As you say, time is not the thing that can be managed - we all have 24 hours a day. What it comes down to is how we manage ourselves in relation to time. Lets face it, we are all really busy, and if you are not careful you can end up being controlled by the tyranny of the urgent, constantly putting out fires.

I find that prioritizing and planning your work (usually the at a weekly level), and then working your plan, is a great step towards getting the most important things done.

Time vs. Task Management - John B. Kendrick - Oct 23rd 2008

I agree that in our multitasking world (your cartoon is the perfect example) we are often confused by time, task and life management principals.  With GTD (Getting Things Done) all the rage right now, we have stepped down to a street level approach and sometimes don't take the time to think about our priorities as we frantically just do things, even if those things are coming from a planning system.

A weekly review, as you've suggested, provides the time to reflect on what you've done (do you even know) and set priorities for the next week of work.

I've written about these and other time and task management issues on my blog at  John 

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