Attention- The new IQ

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By CPA, CS. Derek Mwenesi

Andrew works in a busy establishment that demands a lot of him. Being the section head, he has to be on top of things to give accurate reports, chair weekly meetings as well as put up strategic corrective action plans for his team. 

The nature of work finds him working well beyond the 8-5 contractual time. Being a perfectionist finds him working extra hours to ensure all is well. He also finds himself working on weekends because the nature of his job involves the facilitation of importation and logistics business which ideally conforms to the 24-hour economy ideology. Being newly married he has a young family that equally if not more than demands his attention.

His work involves meetings, responses to emails, financial reports, and general customer interactions which drains him out to the point he can barely focus by the afternoon.

He has structured his calendar and to-do list in a way to address the workload but still finds himself burnt out. By the time he is getting home in the evening, he can barely sleep because his young son needs and craves his attention too. 

The one mistake he does is opening his social media. Being a middle-class citizen means he can afford wifi subscription which enables him to check out social platforms as well as pay TV, Netflix, and Showmax platforms for a movie or two, now and then.

What he realized is that he can barely rest on a normal day. Once he opens WhatsApp, he finds himself going through from one status update to the last of his 200 phone contacts that are on WhatsApp. He also realizes he has been added to numerous WhatsApp groups, including harambees for a church project, a wedding contribution for an acquaintance, funeral for a deceased distant cousin among numerous others. These entire plus the numerous chats from his contact list find him engaged well into the night. All this plus Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, and Tiktok take a toll on him. This means he is unable to fully rest after a tiresome day at the office. 

Scrolling down Facebook profiles, one never gets to the bottom. Before you realize it, an hour is gone which coupled with the anxiety of seeing your mates living lavish lives and posting particularly great moments of weekend vacations, incredible lunches at 5-star hotels, new cars bought, new houses, etc puts undue pressure on one’s psyche. 

What is happening to Andrew happens to a lot of professionals these days.

When the brain is not well trained it becomes an addiction as the feel-good hormones are at play ensuring one is glued consistently for hours on end. Once a notification pops up the mind becomes curious and one can barely keep off from checking what the latest trend is, who has the juiciest story or what is the latest gossip in town? 

With the ever-changing social media platforms continuously finding ways to capture your attention and ways to engage the users, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to be attentive. 

There are many Andrews in the fast-paced world we live in at the moment. The begging question is; how do we address the situation as professionals?

Everything is fighting for our attention these days and these distractions hurt our productivity as well as our well-being. 

Our attention span is shrinking by the day and with it anxiety and depression have taken over. 

Anxiety is when one lives in the future, anticipating an event, circumstance, or situation.

Depression is when one lives in the past after an event, experience, or situation that happened and affected us. 

From these destructions, we are robbed of the “POWER OF NOW” which is the most important aspect of time-THE NOW.

You see time is an illusion. Time isn’t precious. It’s an illusion. What we perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: THE NOW. 

The more you are focused on time- the past and the future– the more you miss out on the NOW, the most precious thing there is.

All the negative tendencies that affect the human mind are a result of TIME. It’s imperative to distinguish TIME into psychological time and clock time. 

All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present time.

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, and worry are all forms of fear caused by too much future and not enough presence.

Guilt, regret, resentment, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness and caused by too much past and not enough presence. 

For professionals to stay present, experience the NOW, and be productive at work as well as maintain healthy relationships, they need to minimize distractions. 

For a professional, an optimal strategy for minimizing distractions and harnessing the power of NOW would be to have a healthy work-life balance. Some facets of these are discussed below.

  1. Have a plan the night before, for your next day activities. I recommend remembering the 6P formula which states that Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
  2. Turning off distractions. This includes notifications for social media handles. When notifications are on, the brain becomes alert to that and the feel-good hormones- dopamine and serotonin are put on alert, pulling you into your phone to check and there begins your journey downhill. These hormones are responsible for social media addiction as well as others. Also, a good idea would be to turn off wifi for some specific times of rest while in the house. This has a way of detoxifying from it and allowing bonding with family and friends.
  3. Practice mindfulness: This is wholesome and will benefit individuals who want to improve their focus and productivity. Through mindfulness, individuals can encourage and improve their health significantly. Some of the mindfulness options are, sleeping more, intentional meditation, connecting with nature, and taking short breaks in between tasks and during work sessions to improve concentration.

Mindfulness can become a habit that will bring out the best in an individual. Training your brain for mindfulness begins as an act, then a habit, and then it eventually becomes the person’s character. It takes approximately 18-254 days for a habit to form depending on the individual. Engaging in a hobby can be a welcome distraction for focused benefits to a professional.

  • Intentionally restructuring your workstation to ensure it is convenient for focused tasks. This may involve clearing up clutter from the desk, ensuring good ventilation and ample lighting. Harnessing the benefits of the sun forms a great natural light that affects the human psyche positively and improves the focus in the office. One can also have visual reminders which keep you focused. Many organizations have also set up health and safety measures that assess and address the work environment pitted against global best practices.
  • Practice the 80-20 Rule where 80% of outcomes come from the 20% of efforts done as priority tasks. This encourages professionals to focus their attention on the most impactful priority tasks because work can be overbearing if done in its entirety.
  • Reward yourself by taking some time off to celebrate wins. 

With the fast-paced world that we are experiencing as professionals, attention is indeed the new IQ and individuals who are able to remain focused and achieve professional goals as well as harness great relationships in the work environment at in their personal lives.

The author is a freelance writer, financial analyst, business strategist, and ardent contributor to the Finance and accounting fields. [email protected]


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