Attention management is the practice of monitoring and controlling attention at individual or group levels. The goal of attention management is to keep people focused on important and relevant tasks while avoiding distractions in order to maximize productivity over time. At an individual level, an example of this may mean developing the skills and focus necessary to work at a computer for extended periods of time without browsing the Internet. On larger scales, it may involve implementing efforts aimed at keeping employees focused at meetings or developing a distraction-free workplace. Most of the applications of attention management are in business or educational settings where attention is essential for success.
The first major aspect of personal attention management is awareness. People often become distracted without even realizing that they're straying from their tasks. Paying attention to actions and looking out for distractions can help a person remain focused on the tasks at hand. If greater personal awareness is not developed, many other attention management techniques will be largely ineffective.
Awareness of distractions is an important part of attention management because, once distractions are recognized, they can usually be eliminated. Those who are easily distracted by the Internet, for instance, can often find ways to work without it. Managing the work environment is one of the most important parts of managing personal attention.
Many of the principles of personal attention management are applicable on a larger scale. Locating distractions and unnecessary demands on student or employee attention can lead to greatly increased focus and productivity. As with personal attention, many of the issues that distract from attention are present in the work environment. The work environment may, for instance, be too open and social, thus encouraging employees to socialize rather than work. On the other hand, employees or students may need more break time, as it can be very difficult to sustain attention and focus over a long period of time.
There is a range of other possible challenges to attention that must be considered in any attention management effort. Information overload, for instance, is an issue in which continued attention, focus, and productivity becomes difficult when one is trying to manage too much information. As such, it is often better for individuals to try to focus on one problem at a time rather than multitasking. Constant interruptions for meetings or short-term tasks may also interfere with attention on larger long-term projects, thus slowing them down and inhibiting overall productivity.