What Attention Zone is Your Mind In?

The Attention Zones Model identifies four different modes of focus in which the mind functions. Elisha Goldstein shows us how we can use this model to improve our attention and use our time more productively.


Prior to becoming a psychologist, I was in the corporate world leading teams of people and becoming intimate with overwhelm and stress at work. The amount of workers today that say job stress is a major problem in their lives has doubled in the last decade. The US Department of Health reported that 70% of physical and mental complaints at work are related to stress, and stress-related claims are costing corporations over $300 billion dollars annually.

I haven’t run into a single person that doesn’t want to be happy and successful at work and life. However, in today’s accelerating business world we’re exposed to a 24X7 round-the-clock atmosphere and faced with an increasing amount of information to digest, with demands to deliver more with less. People are constantly being told they don’t manage their time well and it’s no wonder why more and more people every day are left feeling exhausted, unfocused, unproductive, unhealthy, and burnt out.

“You need to manage your time better and learn to juggle more”, is the conventional reply to getting more things done faster. The American Psychological Association put out a report saying, the inability to focus for even 10 minutes on any one thing at a time may be costing you 20 to 40 percent in terms of efficiency and productivity. What more and more business leaders are finding is instead of doing more things faster, you need to learn how to prioritize your attention and do the most important things really well.

So whether you’re trying to be more effective and less stressed at your current job or schooling, or more effective at finding a job because you just got laid off, attention management is the key to being effective in today’s New Business World. In other words, the issue isn’t so much time management, but attention management in work and life.  When we learn how to refocus our attention on what is most important, we become more effectlive, less stressed, and seem to have more time.

Do you know where your mind is? The 4 Zones:

Stagen through the Leadership Academy developed the Attention Zones Model providing a way to identify four different zones your attention can be in at any given time.

Reactive zone — In this zone you’re often reacting to things that are coming to you, like urgent demands or crises. In this zone, things are important and urgent.

Proactive zone — In this zone you are intentionally spending time strategizing, preparing, and planning. Things are important, but not urgent. Although planning and strategizing are critical to your success, because it’s not urgent, it’s easy to put it on the back burner thinking you just don’t have time to do it.

Neither of the following zones are important and both can suck up your time leading you to be less effective at work.

Distracted zone — In this zone you are engaging in unnecessary interruptions, like unimportant calls and emails. Things appear urgent because they are right in front of you, but they are not important. Because they appear urgent, you can easily get swept up in being distracted.

Wasteful zone — In this zone you are doing trivial activities that just kill time, like surfing the web for entertainment. Unless you are consciously spending time in this zone for relaxation and renewal, this is a zone that is neither urgent nor important and just a waste of time.

Make it a practice to see if you can notice the zone you are in at any given moment. You may even want to schedule a pop up in your calendar asking yourself what zone you are in. When it pops up, take a breath and then answer the question. After you answer, redirect your attention to what is most important right now. You may do this dance over and over again. The purpose isn’t to judge yourself if you’re in distracted or waste zones, but just become aware of it and gently refocus your attention. This mindful focus can help you become more effective and less stressed at work.

Try it out!

As always please interact below. Your comments and questions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.