Beyond the Classroom: Managing Time and Attention

Beyond the Classroom: Managing Time and Attention

The Beyond the Classroom Blog Series includes tips and tricks from Westside's Counseling and Learning Support Teams. 


2.7.23 - Practices to Manage Time and Attention

Written by Nicole White, Middle School Learning Specialist


Recently, I’ve recognized that my concept of “relaxing” almost always equates to doing just one thing at a time. I’ve also recognized that “single-tasking” can be difficult for me. I long for the methodical process of washing dishes or folding laundry the “slow way.” The most challenging part for me is flipping that speed switch, moving from automatic to intentional. I desire the peace and meditation of deep thought.

I have four practices I’ve incorporated into my life to seize some control over my time and attention:


Designated Slow Time 

I have 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night in which I intentionally “single task.” I watch a cartoon with my daughter for 20 minutes in the morning. During this time, there is no cell phone checking and no questions about what else is going on for the day. It’s protected “slow time.”


Brain Dump

When I feel overwhelmed with details and to-dos, and the compartments of life start spilling over and swirling around in my head, I take 15 minutes to write all the swirling thoughts down on paper. I do not organize my thoughts or try to explain them. My goal is to get them from my brain onto paper. It is kind of like thought-taming. Once I’m done, I can go in several directions. Sometimes, simply writing them down helps reduce the overwhelming feelings and racing thoughts. Other times, I am ready to make a list of what I need to focus on for the day.


Schedule Decision-Making Conversations

Timing matters, and I am finally learning that. Trying to have lengthy and detailed decision-making discussions in fragments of free time throughout the workweek does not work for me. Some conversations require sustained attention to really be effective.


Teach Slowly at Home 

I slow down if I am explaining or teaching something at home. Learning is a connecting activity, even if it is learning to clean the lint from the screen in the dryer. Teaching is not telling; teaching includes showing and explaining, and checking. It includes adjusting to feedback and refining.


For a deeper discussion about time and attention, I recommend “Stolen Focus” by Johann Hari.