In the age of the Internet, we have an unlimited amount of information at our fingertips at all times. However, this also leads to an unlimited amount of distractions, and if you aren’t careful, you can easily succumb to attention residue.

Attention residue can be detrimental to any student, working professional or anyone who is trying to get a project done — but that doesn’t mean you can’t solve the problem. Read on to learn more about attention residue and how to combat it so that you can reach a peak level of productivity!

What is Attention Residue?

Attention residue is a newer phrase in today’s zeitgeist, but it’s something you’ve very likely experienced yourself. Coined by Sophie Leroy, the attention residue definition describes the daily conundrum of switching between different tasks in an attempt to complete more in a day. Also known as multitasking, many people fall into this, and it’s a problem because you’re still thinking about the task you were just doing and carrying those thoughts into a different task all together.

So many people think that they can successfully multitask, but that just isn’t the case. People are less productive when they switch between tasks rather than doing one at a time. Although it may be physically possible to hop between tasks, you aren’t able to mentally give a task your full attention if you’re still thinking about another task. 

Why does this matter? If you’re someone who cares about your daily levels of productivity, it’s a term you’ll want to fully understand and work to avoid. Attention residue not only cuts back on your productivity, but the constant switching between projects can cause exhaustion and hurt your attention to detail.

If you want to produce high quality work in a timely manner without burning out, then you’ll want to learn how to get rid of attention residue. If you can’t focus on anything and want to learn how to regain control of your attention, we have some tips for you!

8 Ways to Combat Attention Residue

Wondering how to get rid of attention residue? Fighting attention residue is all about eliminating distractions and finding time to get your work done in one sitting. Here are 8 tips that can help you out!

1. Create a to-do list

The first step to any productivity kick is to create a to-do list. When you have a list of all the things you need to do, you’ll be able to visualize the day ahead of you and budget your time better. Break your to-do list up into daily, weekly and monthly sections so that you can get a better understanding of everything that’s currently on your plate. We talk more about how to create a quality to-do list in this blog post — check it out!

2. Set up a specific time to respond to emails

Checking your inbox and responding to emails is one of the easiest ways to lose concentration and break states of focus. It’s easy to feel the need to check your inbox every single time a new email comes in, but that’s a guaranteed way to split your focus and put it in too many places at once. Schedule a few times a day to check your inbox and respond to emails — very few emails are important and time-sensitive enough to require you to be checking your inbox 24/7.

3. Schedule time for deep work

One of the best ways to ensure productivity is to schedule in time for deep work. Deep work refers to working in states of deep concentration for a long period of time without distraction. This may sound like a no-brainer at first, but entering states of deep work are much rarer than you would think. Unless you actually put this time in your schedule, it can be hard to fit it in throughout the day. 

Learning how to do deep work is actually quite simple. Once you’ve blocked the time off in your day, you just need to tell yourself that no distractions are entering your life for these few precious hours. Anything can wait a few hours, so schedule a block of time each day, leave your phone in the other room and get to work!

4. Utilize digital blocking apps

Smartphones are incredibly useful pieces of technology, but they’re also massive attention suckers. If your phone continues to be a problem throughout the day, you may want to look into digital blocking or digital detox apps. These apps help you manage distractions or block them out entirely, which will help you stay focused. Take a look at our list of digital detox apps to see which one is right for you!

5. Keep notes on each task

Do you find yourself picking up a previously abandoned task and struggling to remember where you left off? This can keep us procrastinating on a task for quite some time, which does no good in the long run. If this problem sounds familiar, try taking notes on each task as you work on them. This can help you pick the task back up and cut down on any other chance of procrastination as well as mentally compartmentalize any task that has to be abandoned before completion.

6. Create a transition routine

Going straight from one task to another can be exhausting. This mental exhaustion can cause us to seek out distractions in the middle of the task, which is the root of attention residue. Create some sort of transition routine that you can use to seamlessly go from one task to another. Use this time to take a quick walk, grab a snack, use the restroom or anything else that will let you mentally detach from the previous task so that you can give your entire attention to the new task when the time comes.

7. Unstick your thoughts

“Sticky thoughts” are those pesky thoughts that stick around in your head after you’ve moved on from a task. These thoughts can be a wide variety of things, but they all have the same result — an inability to completely focus on the task at hand. 

It can take a lot of time and practice to learn how to “unstick your thoughts”, but it’s a crucial skill to adapt for a productive lifestyle. Try using self reminders to catch yourself whenever you’re thinking about anything other than the task at hand. If you really can’t get a thought out of your head, make a note of it in a notebook and move on. This way, you’ll still have the thought available for when you’re more free to revisit it mentally.

8. Practice makes perfect

Understand that combating attention residue takes time. Workplaces, projects and life itself requires you to focus on multiple things at once — which is why it’s easy for attention residue to sneak into our lives. However, if you are conscious of this, you can take action to fix it so that you can slowly remove it from your life and give each task the attention that it requires.

Get Ride of Attention Residue and Get More Done!

Learning how to work effectively and mastering task performance behaviors is a worthy cause for anyone who is looking to live a productive life. These behaviors and problems don’t only apply to the professional or scholar spaces of our life — they also apply to our personal life.

Check out more information on “life admin,” and read a few tips on how to keep those tasks organized!