“I’m too busy!” “I don’t have enough time!” “If only there were more hours of the day.” It’s weird how feeling overwhelmed and busy rarely coincides with getting a lot done. Maybe the problem isn’t that you don’t have enough time. It’s that you don’t have enough attention.
Over at Quartz, Srinivas Rao writes that attention management is really the key to getting things done. If you manage your attention, your time management will much more easily fall into place.
Attention management is more than not looking at social media every five minutes – though it’s also that, too. It’s also about setting priorities and focusing your attention where it matters. And where it matters is often “deep work”.
Rao divides activities into “deep work” and “shallow work”. Both take attention, but they have different effects on your state of mind. Paradoxically, deep work activities, which require significant investments of attention, are less taxing to your sense of focus, so they don’t tire you out before you can get your work done.
Shallow work, on the other hand, which seems so low-investment – the sorts of flitting check-ins such as looking at your phone, like how I just stopped writing here to look at Twitter, with a habitual command+tab – only begets distraction.
Attention management is about not spreading your attention too thin. By focusing it, by narrowing its scope, you concentrate your mental energies in one place (or at least fewer places). And that – not time-management – is what gives you productivity.
As Rao writes, “Productivity is not about the amount of time you spend on something. It’s about the quality of the time you spend on something.” So isn’t this great news? It means you have plenty of time.