Paying attention


A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar by time management coach, Mark Forster. I had already read his book (‘Get everything done – and still have time to play’) and was delighted to find that he speaks as he writes.  He is a gently humorous man. What I found most appealing was that he had overcome a terrible tendency to procrastinate. His expertise in successfully managing time was not the result of dry theory, but instead of a practical need to solve a pressing problem.

I just got the book off the shelf to remind myself of his story. A paragraph in the introduction caught my eye. It’s an interesting thought:

” … there is no such thing as managing time – time just is. What we can learn to manage is how, when and where we direct our attention … regular focused attention is the key to virtually every problem and challenge in life, and the more we learn how to direct and focus our attention the more skilled we will be at life. This is because anything that we give our attention to will start to change.”

Mark goes on to say that things change anyway, all the time. But we can choose to be involved. If I leave an empty cup with a half-inch of tea in it on my desk, after a while the half-inch of tea will develop an interesting layer of mould. So change is happening, so much so that the cup could become a health hazard after some time. However, I can choose to be involved. The minute I finish my umpteenth cup of the day, I could take the cup and apply some hot water and detergent so that I make it clean and hygienic and ready to use again.

Similarly you can go to work and just do your job and get paid. Or you can choose to get involved and actively manage your career by paying attention to areas you might like to focus on and excel in. You can dream about emigrating to Australia (an appealing thought as I look out of the window on the February grey). If you don’t choose to pay attention to the steps necessary to make it happen by consciously controlling where you focus your time and energy, it will remain a pipe dream. As Picasso put it, “Action is the foundational key to success”.

As a coach, I facilitate change by paying attention to what my clients say and do (and equally to what they don’t say and don’t do). By helping people to become consciously aware of the choices they are making, they gain greater control over the changes they want to make and how they choose to respond to changes that happen in their environment.

Where will you direct your attention today? Where might those actions lead?


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