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Time Management or Attention Management


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Time can’t be managed—it just is. So time management is really about managing our attention. And that's not and easy thing to do with so many competing needs vying for it all the time. Here's a useful prioritization structure that just might help improve your time management by helping you control what gets your attention.

Published in: Business, Technology

Time Management or Attention Management

  1. 1. TIME MANAGEMENT OR ATTENTION MANAGEMENT? Time can’t be managed—it just is.
  2. 2. STAYING FOCUSED IS DIFFICULT Staying focused on the task at hand is more difficult than it ever was, with open work spaces and an infinite number of media sources vying for our wandering attention. 2
  3. 3. GOAL-DRIVEN VERSUS INTERRUPT-DRIVEN Some people are naturally goal-driven and can more easily stay focused in spite of distractions. Others are “interrupt driven”, in other words, their mind gives priority to external distractions, making it very difficult to stay focused in today’s “twitterverse”. 3
  4. 4. STRUCTURE CAN HELP For those who are easily distracted, it’s important to put some structure in place to help maintain 4
  5. 5. WHAT ABOUT CRISIS MANAGEMENT? And then there are those who operate in crisis management mode all the time! While emergency may be a product of their working reality, potential crisis is often better handled with a little forethought and prevention. 5
  6. 6. NOT TO MENTION THE “FIRE-FIGHTERS?” Of course, firefighting can provide a rush. Some people thrive on being the troubleshooter who saves the day, but a lot of damage can be done when things are allowed to get to a critical state. If you’re always putting out fires, something has already burned! 6
  7. 7. PREVENT FIRES WITH A STRUCTURED PROCESS Fire prevention, in the form of planning and monitoring, may not be quite as exciting, but it minimizes damage and reduces stress (for you, and those around you!). 7
  8. 8. PROVEN APPROACH Whatever your style, the Time/Attention Management Matrix* can help you decide which activities warrant your attention and resources: *popularized by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 8
  9. 9. DEFINITIONS Urgent = in your face, vying for your immediate attention. Important = Critical to the success of your role. Essential to the business or organization. 9
  10. 10. KNOWING WHICH IS WHICH COUNTS The judgment as to whether activities are urgent, important, both or neither, is crucial for good time/attention management. People who lack experience or are not good at managing their time, attention, or their environment, spend most of their time in quadrants 1 and 3: responding to urgency. 10
  11. 11. MANAGEMENT BY SQUEAKY WHEEL Poor time managers typically prioritize tasks according to who shouted last and loudest. Often, loudness correlates to seniority, which can discourage questioning. 11
  12. 12. Spare time is often spent in quadrant 4 on aimless and non-productive activities. Most people spend the least amount of time in quadrant 2: the most critical area for success, development and proactive self-determination. BUSY WORK MEANS MISSED OPPORTUNITY 12
  13. 13. WHAT TO DO? What to do? 1. Consider the many circumstances, activities and demands that vie for your time and attention during a typical workday. 2. Fit them into the appropriate quadrant. 3. Then act on them (or not!) as appropriate. 13
  14. 14. Q1: URGENT AND IMPORTANT – DO NOW Vying for immediate attention and critical to your success and/or that of the organization: • Real major emergencies and crises • Significant demands for information from superiors or customers • Project work with imminent deadlines • Problem or crisis resolution • Previously planned activities from Q2 that are now due 14
  15. 15. DEALING WITH QUADRANT 1 Tactics for handling quadrant 1 activities include: • Confirm importance/urgency, then do these now. • Prioritize according to relative urgency. • Discuss actual requirements and deadlines with originators and/or those dependent on outcomes to sort competing tasks. • Help originators re-assess urgency/priority. • Move planned activities from Q2 to Q1 on time. • Break tasks into stages: e.g. acknowledge with commitment to complete at a later date. 15
  16. 16. Q2: NOT URGENT, BUT IMPORTANT - PLAN TO DO Not “in-your face” but critical to your success and/or that of your organization. Often the most neglected activities: • Project planning and scheduling • Research and investigation • Networking and relationship building • Strategic thinking, setting direction • Designing, creating and testing • Systems and process development 16
  17. 17. DEALING WITH QUADRANT 2 Tactics for handling quadrant 2 activities include: • Plan time-slots for doing these tasks and stick to them. • Work from home or elsewhere if necessary to avoid interruption. • Break big tasks into logical stages – block off time for each stage. • Use project management tools and methods. • Inform people of your “off-limits” time. • Protect these vital scheduled activities against encroachment. 17
  18. 18. Q3: URGENT, BUT NOT IMPORTANT – REJECTDIPLOMATICALLY In your face, but not important to your success and/or the success of the organization. • Trivial and 'off-loaded' requests from others • Apparent emergencies and ad-hoc interruptions • Misunderstandings appearing as complaints • Irrelevant distractions and pointless routines • Dealing with accumulated unresolved trivia • Duplicated effort caused by poor communication • Excess double-checking/micro-management • Boss's whims or tantrums 18
  19. 19. DEALING WITH QUADRANT 3 Tactics for handling quadrant 3 activities include: • Help originators (even your boss) re-assess importance. • Hone your ability to explain why you can’t do them. • Where possible reject immediately (diplomatically). • Delegate or find another way to achieve what’s needed. • Find the cause of repeating demands and work to prevent re-occurrence (A project for Quadrant 2 if important!) • Train others to use long-term remedies, not quick fixes. • Challenge “we've always done it this way” thinking. • Help others to better manage their time and attention. 19
  20. 20. Q4: NOT URGENT OR IMPORTANT - RESIST & CEASE These are the real time wasters: not vying for immediate attention and not important to success. • Unnecessary and unchallenged routines • Computer games, net surfing, silly emails/texts • Over-long or excessive breaks • Gossip, personal communication, interrupting others • Daydreaming, doodling, reading irrelevant material • Unnecessary adjusting, tidying, updating systems • Embellishment and over-production • Alcohol and drug abuse • Aimless travel and driving 20
  21. 21. DEALING WITH QUADRANT 4 These activities are not tasks; they are habits that that provide comfort and refuge from the effort of discipline. • Many people doing a lot of quadrant 4 activity creates a non-productive and ineffective culture. • With no positive outcomes, these activities, when commonplace, are demotivating. • Can be stress related. Consider why you (or employees) do these things. If there’s a deeper root cause, address it. • To stop these activities, have a clear structure and daily schedule of tasks (created in quadrant 2). 21
  22. 22. YOUR JOB • Your job is to assess and prioritize! While you can't manage time itself, you can focus on managing your attention and activities for exceptional results. 22
  24. 24. ENHANCING PERFORMANCE WITH TRIBEHR Use TribeHR’s goals tracking and company values to help your team prioritize activities and enhance performance. Follow us on Twitter @TribeHR Subscribe to the TribeHR blog for more timely HR information. 24
  25. 25. REFERENCES & PHOTOS Flikr/creative commons/Karen Roe Flikr/creative commons/Hunter Langston Flikr/creative commons/Charlotte Fire Department Flikr/creative commons/Thomas’s Pics Flikr/creative commons/Sean MacEntee Flikr/creative commons/OneWayStock Flikr/creative commons/Nuhaa All Bakry Covey, S. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Flikr/creative commons/Darron Berginheier 25