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Threats to Your Time and Attention

Time and Attention

What is it that holds you back from being efficient and intentional with your time? What obstacles do you face to doing focused, deep work?

Previously, I shared about the three “waves” of productivity: Efficiency, Intentionality, and Meaning.

Now, let’s dive in and find out what it is that threatens these three areas of productive. In short, what is it that threatens your time, attention, and focus…?

Your Efficiency Is Threatened by Your Inefficiency

It’s obvious, but it’s also true. Your efficiency is threatened by inefficiency.

The first wave of productivity focused on improving efficiency through the implementation of productivity workflows, systems, and tools.

You don’t have to go full-on GTD, nor do you have to start using expensive and complicated software. I get by just fine using a physical paper notebook to manage 90% of my task and time management needs.

The tools and systems you use in and of themselves are not what’s important. But if you have an inefficient system — or perhaps even no system at all — then you won’t be able to reap the benefits and freedom that come with efficiently managing your day to day life. Instead, you’ll be spending a significant amount of your time just juggling and wrangling things that you could easily be managing well.

Your Intentionality Is Threatened by Your Lack of Boundaries

Without protecting the margin in your day, then the free time you create will be swallowed up by other demands and responsibilities on your schedule. This most commonly occurs by giving in to the tyranny of the urgent.

Boundaries are important. You must be able to say no to the non-essential demands on your time and attention, and you must maintain margin and breathing room within your schedule so emergencies don’t arise every time there is a little unexpected thing that pops into your day.

Your Meaningful Work Is Threatened by Your Lack of Clarity and Inability to Focus

Many people do not have clarity about what it means to be productive and valuable in their work. From a high-level, they cannot define what important, deep work is. And from a granular level, they lack the clarity to know what their next steps are and what they should aim to do on a regular basis.

As a result, that lack of clarity leads to unfocused busy work such as checking email, social media, news, etc. And this is super-bad-news because many people substitute busyness as a proxy for productivity.

As I mentioned last week, clarity cures busywork.

But clarity alone is not enough. You also need the skill to focus and do the work, rather than procrastinate and give in to distractions.

If you’re struggling to find clarity about your focused, deep work, you’re not alone. Ditto if you’re a master procrastinator.

(Side Note: I put together all my book notes from Deep Work and also combined those notes with all the key takeaways and highlights from my interview with Cal Newport. You can download the in-depth notes here.

Up next in this series, we’ll be hitting on the most common pitfalls to productivity and how your time and attention are crucial in protecting your margin.

The pitfalls differ from the above threats in that the former are habits and mindsets you have that you may not even know about. They’re things that are found in your own individual productivity systems as well as within the teams you work with, and even within your whole company.

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