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Summary:

Working online can sure make a person feel scatter-brained. Too much information and too many possibilities overwhelm our ability to focus. Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell thinks many of us are suffering from culturally induced attention deficit disorder. Business Week’s Working Parents blog lists some tips that Hallowell […]

Working online can sure make a person feel scatter-brained. Too much information and too many possibilities overwhelm our ability to focus. Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell thinks many of us are suffering from culturally induced attention deficit disorder.

Business Week’s Working Parents blog lists some tips that Hallowell offers in his book CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap – Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD:

1) Set aside time to work before you check your e-mail or snail mail or voice mail, before you allow the world to intrude on your fresh and focused state of mind.

2) Do not allow the world to have access to you 24/7. Turn off your BlackBerry and cell phone. Stretch or have a five-minute conversation. When you sit down again, you’ll be focused.

3) Prioritizing is crucial. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself spread so thin you’ll only be able to see your good friends on the first Tuesday in February.

4) Give yourself permission to end relationships and projects that drain you.

5) Do what you’re good at and delegate the rest. This is important, because when we do what we’re good at, the work can take on the quality of play.

6) Keep in mind that some of our best thoughts come when we’re doing nothing. Downtime is a forgotten art.

I’d also like to know what tools and techniques I can use online to better control my attention. GreaseMonkey scripts that turn off access to Google Reader, full-screen text editors, email filters and rules that direct less important messages to a folder rather than into the inbox, web pages that tell you to get back to work… there must be a bunch of ways to do this. I’m too overloaded right now to figure them out, so I’m acting on Hallowell’s tip #5 and delegating it to you, WWD readers.

What tools and techniques do you use to control your attention online?

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  1. I don’t suffer from attention deficit…. Hey somebody just sent me an email…

    Sorry where was I…?

    I think it is more of a case of shorter attention spans.
    As you mention we have too much information and too many options now and there is.. for wont of a better word… too much competition ? from everywhere for us to read/do/act on everything.

    With blogs (including this one too. Maybe) looking to get people to read their latest posts, they are usually short and snappy to make sure that the content takes less of a minute to read so you can move onto the next thing.

    Ah another email…

  2. really liked it

  3. Robert Andrews Friday, March 2, 2007

    Oh god, it’s got so bad now that… hmmm… Flickr’s nice…
    D’oh!

    Seriously.

  4. Great article, but some things for me are too hard to handle.
    For example “Do not allow the world to have access to you 24/7″ its hard to achieve…

  5. Douglas Hanna Friday, March 2, 2007

    These tips are all good. I definitely suffer from computer ADD. I can start with an email that takes me to a website on internet marketing and then think of something I need to do on one of my websites and on and on. Before I know it, an hour or more has elapses. I guess I just need to turn off email for several hours and try to do a better job of disciplining myself.

  6. Adam Ostrow Friday, March 2, 2007

    Buffett, Greenspan, Internet ADD – Links for 3/2

    How to Cope with Internet ADD – Good discussion on Web Worker Daily about how to avoid the trap of excessive multi-tasking that many Internet workers (including myself!) fall victim to. However, I don’t agree with the idea to turn

  7. Blog of Leonid Mamchenkov » Keeping up Saturday, March 3, 2007

    [...] Workers Daily runs an excellent post, asking the question: What tools and techniques do you use to control your attention [...]

  8. It’s rapid attention shifting, not ADD. You’re still getting things done.

    My techniques are totally low tech.

    With that said, my best strategy is to stay phyiscally fit. I do extreme cardio 5-7 hours a week, plus another 3 of yoga or strengthening. I eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water. When I’m at my physical peak, I can stay focused. Something about the endorphins gets rid of that overwhelmed feeling.

    I make lists on paper – I’ve stopped using my email program inbox as my to do list.

    I keep a master list (on paper) of everything I have to do in a notebook. Then, every morning, I take out 3 important tasks that I must complete. I block out the tasks according to my peak concentrations tims – for example – if it is writing and requires focus – I know what time of the day is my peak for that. So, once I schedule in the critical tasks. I also schedule several small bursts of time to attack email or my reader.

    B.

  9. People Over Process » Blog Archive » Tips on Working at Home Saturday, March 3, 2007

    [...] Keep up with introspective people to figure out just what the hell it is your new type of job is and for operative tips. For example, Anne & co.’s Web Worker Daily. WWD (and other sources I assume) are a good version of the self-help magazines of hold where you can actually learn new ways to make your work better but also get the sort of camaraderie of knowing you’re part of a larger group. And, at times, there’s even counseling for common problems. [...]

  10. Step 5 is the only way I get anything done.

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