Welcome to the third part of our article series on the TEA Framework – the Asian Efficiency methodology to productivity. In Part 1, we talked about how important it is to manage your time. In Part 2, we showed you how managing your energy is crucial for productivity. In this third post, we’ll dive deep into how managing your attention is vital.
As a quick recap: at Asian Efficiency, we have the concept of the 3 Pillars of Productivity. Anyone who wants to become more productive must be able to manage their Time, Energy and Attention (TEA).
Today’s post is about the third pillar: Attention. This is about focusing on what matters and staying on course as you move toward your goal. You need to be able to focus on one task at hand and finish it in the time you have available.
The Distracted Person
At Asian Efficiency we believe that you should not have to sacrifice your personal life to get things done. You should be able to get everything done in the time you have. How you manage your attention is a big part of this because, without it, it’s easy to give in to distractions and procrastinate.
When you have time and energy to do the work but you don’t have the necessary attention, you are Distracted.
Here are some other examples of people who are Distracted:
- The high-achieving sales person that limits their earning potential by spending most of his/her time doing non-sales work
- A stay-at-home parent who doesn’t actually get to spend much quality time with their kids
- The person who is always talking about their great ideas but never actually does anything
Let’s say your goal is to lose weight. When you manage your attention carefully, you will stay focused on your goal to shed those pounds or kilos. Everything you do and think about will be in alignment with your goal. It’s easy for you to say no to ice cream because you know it’s not going to help you reach your goal.
On the other hand, when you lack attention it’s easy for you to move away from what you’d like to achieve. A Distracted person will look to do other things to and avoid the “important things”. They’ll cave in and say yes to ice cream. They’ll follow the shiny, bright object and derail themselves from their goal.
This is not where we want you to be. Instead of being Distracted, we want you to be Focused.
What would happen if you were more focused (had more attention)?
Your attention is a powerful currency and one you must learn to manage. Otherwise, you’ll have other people and companies hijack it. Companies like Facebook and Google have engineers specifically create features and functionality in their apps so that they hijack your attention and have you become addicted to their apps and social media platforms.
Luckily for you, there are easy ways to address this. Once you manage your attention well, you will get less distracted, procrastinate less often, and you’ll become more focused on the right things that will help you achieve your goals.
So how do you do it?
Two Components of Attention
By mastering these two areas of attention:
- Goals: You have clarity around what you want to accomplish
- Focus: Stay on task (without getting distracted) to achieve your goal
Let’s break down each area in more detail.
Goals are important because they function like a north star. It’s a destination that you’re going toward and you want to get there in the fastest way possible. This means we don’t want to get lost along the way or take the long route – that would be a waste.
Once you have clarity around your goals, it’s easy to get focused. The reason most people get distracted is that they have either no goals or they are unclear what their goals are. If your goal is to save $10,000 it becomes a lot easier to yes to anything that helps you save money. Likewise, it becomes easy to say no to anything will move you away from having $10,000 in your savings account.
If we take the same analogy of earlier, having clear goals would equate to having a map of how you’re going get to your destination in the shortest amount of time. You feel confident that you’re going to arrive at your destination and being on time.
On the other hand, with unclear goals, that’s like driving in foggy weather without a map. You’ll go slow, miss signs along the way and take the wrong turns more often than you like. You might end up at your destination but you’ll definitely be late.
When you have no goals at all, that’s like driving around in circles with no destination in mind. You’re just wasting gas, time and energy going nowhere.
To bring that to a practical level: have you ever looked at your to-do list and felt like everything was equally important and needed to be done yesterday? If you have, you know that feeling. That’s a sign that you have no clarity around your goals or you have no goals at all.
If you did, you would be able to prioritize everything. The next time you feel like everything is equally important, think back to your goals. What are they? Once you bring it to the front of your attention, you’ll quickly realize that some tasks will take priority over others. In other words, if you can’t prioritize your to-do list, you have no clarity around your goals.
When it comes to managing your attention, you want absolute clarity around your goals. They should excite you and be specific. Here are some of our best free resources to help you set and achieve goals:
- Goal Setting and Goal Getting: Having a Why
- Goal Setting the Asian Efficiency Way
- How to Write Your Goals To Make Them Achievable
- 3 Keys to Making This the Year Your New Year’s Resolutions Finally Stick (TPS176)
- Eat That Frog – What All Successful People to Achieve Their Goals
- How to Achieve Your Goals with Any Task Management System
Most people that discover AE usually have a goal in mind. However, they struggle with achieving their goal even if they have the time and energy to accomplish it. Many people know what they need to do but get distracted from taking consistent action. They are Distracted.
If you’ve ever told yourself over and over again that you “should” do something and you didn’t follow through, you’re also Distracted.
You need to get focused. Focus is what allows you to keep the main thing the main thing, making it easier to do the work and accomplish your goal. Once you have clarity around your goal, it’s much easier to get focused. It’s a skill everyone can learn.
If we had to break down what focus really is, we’ll borrow a concept from Deep Work by Cal Newport. He defines “Deep Work” as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. There are only two variables that you need to consider:
Time spent x Intensity of focus = Deep Work
Most of us can dedicate enough time to focus on something important but might miss the intensity of focus. Let me give you an example of this. In my apartment building, I have a gym that I usually go to three times a week. On my calendar, I have fixed times of when I go on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Every time I’m at the gym, I see the same guy. He’s always there when I’m there. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been going about the same number of times to the gym. Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to lose 20lbs and drop a lot of body fat so I could fit clothes from a few years ago.
This guy, on the other hand, looks exactly the same. From the outside, his body composition isn’t any different from earlier this year.
He spent the same amount of time as me at the gym! Wouldn’t he be entitled to the same results?
No. The difference was his intensity compared to mine.
While I was running on the treadmill to Taylor Swift songs and lifting weights with my favorite Spotify playlists, this guy was checking his phone and browsing social media while walking on the treadmill. Our intensity was different. We put in the same amount of time in the gym but he didn’t put any intensity in his workouts.
The same idea applies to focus: you need to factor in time and intensity. We would argue that intensity is the harder part to master because time is relatively easy to figure out (see our part 1 of this article series). You can do this by:
- Eliminating notifications and any other form of distraction
- Setting deadlines to create urgency
- Giving yourself shorter timelines to get things done (Parkinson’s law)
To help you get focused, check out some of our best free resources below:
- The 5-Day Focus Challenge to Get You Focused
- 4 Strategies for Developing Your Focus Muscle and Creating the Future You’ve Always Dreamed of (TPS145)
- The Science of Focus Music
- 10 Powerful Apps To Help You Maintain Laser Focus
- 5 People Who Finally Got Focused and Sh*t Done
Now that you understand the importance of managing your attention, let’s put this in actionable steps. As always, you can expect everything from Asian Efficiency to be simple and actionable:
- Eliminate notifications as much as possible – email, text messages, instant messaging apps, and other apps. The fewer you have, the easier it will be for you to focus.
- Revisit your goal(s) right now. Do you have absolute clarity around your goal(s)? If not, redefine your goal(s).
- Schedule one task on your calendar right now to get you closer to accomplish your goal.
This also wraps up the last part of our article series on the TEA framework. In Part 1, we talked about the importance of managing your Time. In Part 2, you learned why managing your Energy is crucial for productivity and today you learned how important Attention management is.
If you want to find out where you should start within the TEA framework, take our quick Productivity Quiz. It will give you customized advice and action steps that will focus on your top productivity goals.