Attentional control and why you need it at work this year

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We used to have a team member who needed constant “input”, as he liked to call it. He always shared how he’d get restless and how that made him feel anxious and frustrated. Many of us here love a quiet moment to ourselves at work. He was quite the opposite.

A few months after he joined us as an intern, he wanted to change where he was sitting. When someone from my team asked him why, he said he needed a change of scenery and that his current seat was distracting him.

For a few days after he switched seats, he seemed happy. This didn’t last, though. He soon started taking more time to complete his tasks and had a constant look of sleepiness. It was evident that his inability to focus was affecting him mentally and physically.

We tried to help him figure out what we could do to make him feel better. He could never seem to commit to what we tried, though, and after his internship ended, we never heard from him again.

I didn’t remember this whole saga until I sat down to write about attentional control a few days ago. It’s something we all struggle with—some more than others. And there are many reasons for this.

In this post, I’m diving into attention control for a little bit and why you need it at work, especially in 2021.

To control your life, control what you pay attention to

The type of experiences you have is solely dependent on what you pay attention to. That determines the life you have. If you let distractions get in the way of your priorities and goals, the life you lead will be a completely different one.

Michael once shared something he had seen in an old book on psychology. It was something like, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.”

I’ve always believed in the truth of that statement. If you don’t have control over what you pay attention to, you are giving up control of your life. Especially during such disruptive times, controlling your attention is the only way we can hope to be resilient in the face of challenges.

Attention control is the only way we can live a life of choice and not one driven by habit.

So, how can you control your attention? How can you improve your focus so that it improves your life? One scientifically proven method is to incorporate mindfulness and mindful meditation into your routine.

Mindfulness impacts your cognitive neuroscience

Did you know that mindfulness can change the structure and function of your brain?

According to scientific research on mindfulness and its effects on cognitive neuroscience, the practice of mindfulness and mindful meditation can change the brain in a few ways, including:

  • At the cellular level
  • At the structural level
  • At the functional level

Specifically, the functional changes are responsible for the impact mindful meditation has on attentional control.

Research suggests that even brief periods of mindful meditation training can help change the pattern of electrical activity (neuron firing) in the brain. This leads to an increase of self-awareness, emotional regulation, as well as attention control.

Better focus and attention is beneficial in the workplace

Staying committed to a task can not just help you personally but professionally. Regardless of the industry you work in, attention control has many benefits. Some of these include:

  • Building momentum

Staying focused on one task at a time can help you complete it efficiently. This means that you can complete tasks at a quicker pace.

  • Increasing productivity

An increase in momentum means an increase in productivity. Mindfulness can help you control your attention, minimising the impact distractions can have on you.

  • Reducing stress

Higher productivity leads to a reduction in stress and anxiety. As was the case for our intern, not being able to control your attention can distress you. When you learn to control your attention with the help of mindfulness, you may not experience those debilitating emotions.

Leverage mindfulness to improve your attentional control

Attentional control is not geared at minimising distraction, because that’s not something you can control.

With the help of mindfulness, however, you can learn to recognise when you are distracted and bring your attention back to what’s important.

Get in touch with our team at Awakened Mind and learn more about how our app can help you practice mindfulness at work. Take control of your attention and your life with proven mindfulness practices.