The #1 Tip to Improve Your Time Management
Are you ready for it?
Stop trying to manage your time.
I know this flies in the face of everything you’ve been taught before, but hear me out.
Time management used to work just fine. But the skill you need for the 21st century workplace is attention management. Here’s how to start making that shift.
Get conscious of distractions. Way back in the 20th century workplace, if you set aside time on your calendar to do something, that task would probably get done. When’s the last time that happened for you?
Don’t be down on yourself, though. We’ve been through some seismic changes in how we work. Today, we consume about three times as much information as the average person did in 1960. New technologies put the world at our fingertips — email, text messages, social media, chat apps, online video, news alerts and on and on. Technology journalist Matt Richtel calls it “screen invasion.” It’s not your imagination: There’s simply more to keep up with everyday.
All that connectivity is pretty cool sometimes. But the very tools that were meant to help us also make it hard for us to focus. You can still try allocating time for something you need to do, but now there are a lot more distractions trying to horn in on that time.
If you think you are master multitasker and can handle all those incoming emails and social media notifications while still getting your task done, here’s a rude awakening: Research shows that multitasking actually makes our work take longer, and it decreases the quality of what we do.
Understand attention’s value. In our world of information overload, focused attention is a precious, limited commodity. Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted, calls it a “tool in your intellectual arsenal.” That’s important to realize, because our lives are the sum of the things we pay attention to. If your attention goes to whatever device is beeping, buzzing and pinging in the moment, chances are it’s not going toward what’s most important to you. As the philosopher and psychologist William James said, “Your experience is what you choose to attend to.” Bottom line: To achieve your goals and live the life you want, you have to control your attention.
Reconsider your calendar. Sure, it does help keep you on track, but it can’t do everything you need. A better option is a productivity system that shows your workload (or, more importantly, your whole life-load) in a meaningful way, and not just as random entries in your calendar. You’ll want a system that keeps your attention on the priorities you decide — not on the distractions that pop up in the moment. A calendar should be part of your system, but so should all the other things you need to get your work done: contacts, notes, email and tasks.
Ready to learn more? Check out these resources from my website:
• More about the science of attention management
• Welcome to the Attention Age
• Why a systematic approach to productivity works
• Is multitasking ever OK?
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About Maura Thomas
Maura Thomas is a 20-year veteran of the productivity industry, and founded Regain Your Time in 2003. As a national expert and thought-leader, she developed a workflow management process for getting things done called the Empowered Productivity(TM) System. Her success with this System led one of the largest publishers in the world, John Wiley &…