Realising the need to get beyond time management and start to manage your attention to its optimum capabilities is a huge step forward. Develop a good sense of your daily attention flow so it dictates the rhythm and difficulty of your work at different times of the day. Give yourself permission to handle the low brow and easy tasks when you are flagging at inactive attention lows, but equally be sure to bite off the most difficult tasks when your proactive attention has you salivating for results.
Protecting Attention from Interruptions
Remember, proactive attention is your most precious commodity. The vultures of interruption and potential distraction will circle you, trying to make you a victim. Stay in control. Aggressively and ruthlessly defend your attention.
Self-Awareness and Agility
A productivity ninja is agile. The plan for the day at 1 PM may be entirely different from what it was at 9 AM. Pay attention to your attention levels and change your plan if you are having one of those ‘hitting top form’ kind of days, or of course if you are fading faster than you expected.
Minimise Set-up Cost
With any new activity, whether email, writing a report or attending a conference, there is a high set-up cost in terms of time and attention. For email, you have to fire up Outlook and let the program load and synchronise with the server and open your emails. If returning to a report, you have to reread all the bits that you have forgotten you wrote last time; you have to navigate back through the document. All of these are the set-up costs of doing. The cost is twofold: It takes time and it also takes attention and energy. Working in larger ‘chunks’ (such as writing the whole report in one go, rather than trying to split it over several days) is a great way to minimise the time and attention spent in set-up mode.
Mix and Match
Potential distractions are around every corner. Do not even create the temptation to get distracted because you are bored. Keep your days and weeks fresh by giving yourself variety. So if Monday is very much a solitary thinking day, perhaps Tuesday will be full of interesting people and conversations. Wednesday might be out of the office, but allow Thursday to focus back onto admin and getting your in-tray back to zero.