It's day two of our special time-management clinic with renowned life coach and bestselling author, Wendy Jago, whose brand new book, How to Manage Your Mammoth: The Procrastinators Guide to Getting Things Done, is published by Piatkus this month.
For those of you who missed our first post on Friday, every day at 4pm for the next few working days we will be posting Wendy’s answer to one frequently asked time-management question here on PiatkusBooks.net. We hope that these will inspire you to conquer your own time-management mammoths!
We’d also love to hear from you. If you’ve ever wished you could find the answers to your own time-management questions, do please leave your questions in the comments section below and Wendy Jago will answer them for you! This is a fantastic opportunity to have your questions answered by one of the most well-respected coaches in the time-management and neuro-linguistic programming field!
Today's question will resonate with all those freshers out there who have recently embarked on university life.
Q. I have a really short attention span and find it very difficult to stay motivated. I always start strong but then get distracted by an instant fix. In the past my ridged timetable at school has helped with this, but I'm about to start university and I'm worried about staying motivated on my own. Do you have any advice?
A.You are actually talking about two issues here and of course they are related. Attention span is one and motivation is the other.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that length of attention span is automatically 'better' – it's the quality of your attention that counts. So start by being curious about how you actually operate.
- Have a note pad by you and jot down your start time and what you are doing or working on.
- As soon as you feel you are losing focus, jot down the time again.
- Get up, have a glass of water or go to the loo or walk briskly around for a minute or so, then go back and start again. Note your start time.
By taking brief breaks when your mind wanders, rather than trying to fight against it, you are likely to keep a better quality of attention. In fact, nobody fully concentrates for longer than 45 minutes, so always aim to have a brief pause at the end of that time (set the timer on your watch if it helps).
You may also find you are more alert in the morning than the afternoon or vice versa. As a student, you will have more control over when you do what, so try to use your brightest times for your most demanding or exciting tasks. If you are a 'lark', get up early and even work before breakfast. If you are an 'owl', sleep in a bit and devote at least part of your evenings to work rather than just to the pub.
Experiment to discover whether you keep focus best working alongside or among others. If you are a scientist, you are likely to be based in a lab, which will provide plenty of variety but also a bit more temptation. If you are an arts or social studies student, you can get a feeling of sociability by working in a common room or library.
Motivation is really to do with why you are there at all. It's your personal fuel. So what kind of fuel is it for you? Giving in to immediate distractions may happen because your long-term goal is too vague or too far off to engage you. 'I need to get this task done by lunch time' can be a better motivator than 'I want to be a successful solicitor by the time I'm 50'. If you do have that kind of long-term goal, try to think of each small task as a tiny building brick towards that goal. Every brick is needed so every one you put properly in place helps.
Above all, try not to blame yourself. Find out about what is holding you back so that you can think of solutions rather than struggling with what you think you 'ought' to do.
For more help, see Chapters 3 and 12 of How to Manage Your Mammoth.
How to Manage Your Mammoth is available from all good bookshops. This title is also available as an ebook so you can add it to your Sony ereader, Kindle, Kobo or iPad.
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