Time, energy or focus?

I was thinking about time management and I realised I was just sitting there, letting my mind wander. Is that good time management?

When people talk about time management I often assume they mean “planning how to allocate our time.”

I think that is valuable, because I have often found myself the victim of my calendar, rather than the master of it. So I am a big fan in deciding when to have meetings, when to work on my todo list and what to prioritise first.

It is choosing what not to do today, that allows us to get enables us to do what is most important.

Several people have told me that

This is really good advice for me. I can create an infinite todo list, but it is prioritising “what not to do” that is the most important for me.

So in a way time management is about prioritising how to spend my available time – “I will do this and I won’t do that” – ” I will spend at least 5 minutes exercising and no more than 20 minutes today working on my blog.”

Time is a scarce resource and I don’t want to waste it.

But there is another scarce resource, at least for me. It is “my attention”. I find that even if I am in a meeting that I want to be in, my attention can be on what people are saying, what I want to say next, or why my phone just pinged during the meeting.

This is less about deciding what to spend my time on and more about getting the most out of the time I am spending on something. Being present in a meeting, or being in the zone when writing/analysing/estimating something.

I am not sure if you would consider “deliberately focusing my attention” as time management but I do. In fact I have learned that I burn out my capacity to focus my attention and need to pause to recharge. Maybe that means taking a 5 minute break between meetings, or letting myself spend some time distracted, with my mind wandering.

In the same way, I start the day fresh and relaxed, but then wear down, before having a coffee, going for a walk or even just putting something aside and working on something else.

Instead of a clock, I could probably have a whole dashboard (or wall) of dials to monitor my energy, remaining time for the task/day and my attention level.

Or maybe I need to balance “planning my time” with “managing my focus and attention when I am doing something I planned” with “managing distractions”.

Not all distractions are bad and not all things are the same priority.

What do you think is the best way to “get the most from your day”?


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