Search engines, billions of websites, targeted advertisement and easy access to digital content provide us with myriad ways of taking care of our most complex informational and entertainment needs. What is now scarce, and therefore valuable, is the user’s attention, which explains the intense efforts made to obtain it through focused advertising, pop-ups, short videos embedded in news portals and, most disheartening, spam.
Managing your time used to be the same thing as managing your attention. If you designated some time to attend to something, it was more likely that thing would get done. This was back before the digital revolution so thoroughly changed the way information is generated and shared. In other words, before there were so many distractions. Now, the world is constantly available at our fingertips, with the plethora of radio, television, internet, scrolling marquees, skywriting & advertising, not to mention new ways to instantly communicate, and handheld digital devices that are becoming more and more omnipresent. Allocating time to something no longer means that it will receive your attention, and without attention, your time is somewhat irrelevant. Attention creates action, produces quality and facilitates productivity. Attention also has a dramatic impact on your life. What you give your attention to, is what determines your experiences.
Think about it…there are entire cultures built around subjects that probably don’t even register with you. Don’t you know people who are involved in things you know nothing about? Perhaps its monster trucks, or vampires, or science fiction, or quantum physics. There are people whose lives revolve around subjects that are barely a blip on your radar. Those people give their attention to those topics, and therefore have experiences around them. And you do the same. So, as William James noted, “your experience is what you choose to attend to.” And all of those experiences eventually add up to your life. But if most of the time, you don’t “agree” to give your attention; you are just constantly distracted and reacting to all of those things that are vying for your attention, then maybe you do not have as much control over your life as you might like.
So perhaps it’s time to reconsider the way you manage the details of your life. For most people, their primary tool is a calendar. A calendar is a time-based tool. Allocating your time on a calendar can help, but maybe it’s time to change your thinking. Consider a productivity system that will enable you to view, and therefore better manage, all of those details necessary to service your life. This is a better way of allocating your attention to them, and keeping them in your focus, making it more likely that they will get done. You can only manage things when you can see them, and you can’t see them when they are inside your head. If you can view your workload (or, more importantly, your whole life-load) in a meaningful way, and not just as random entries in your calendar, then those details are more likely to capture your attention, despite all the distractions. If they get your attention, it’s more likely that you will take action around them. Any good personal productivity system (of course I suggest my Empowered Productivity System, but you may already have a process that works well for you) has a comprehensive task management tool. I’m working on compiling a list with reviews, so be sure to check back. But in the meantime, here is a place to start.