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3 Steps to Manage Your Focus in an Attention Economy


The world is working against you.

I don’t say that to start a conspiracy theory, or paint a doomsday scenario.

But it’s true. The malls, the hoardings, the internet have all  been designed to suck your attention and turn that into some kind of profit.

If you say yes to everything around you, you’ll end up fat, broke & constantly distracted.

Think of it in economic terms.

Attention is a scarce commodity. While information is abundant, practically infinite. There’s a limited amount of attention at your disposal to consume the information that is coming at you from every direction.

When you have people’s attention, you can convert that into something valuable, like a relationship, a sale or unswerving loyalty. None of this is possible if you don’t grab mindspace first.

So marketers, advertisers, product developers, will do anything in their power  to distract you from what you’re doing, and get you to pay them with your most critical resource – your attention!

In other words we live in an attention economy. And if you don’t protect what you have, then you will be at the mercy of your environment that will steal everything from  right under your nose.

Without attention, you cannot create anything of value. Period!

Stop Managing Your Time. Start Managing Your Attention.

How much time do Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Obama have in day? 24 hours, just like you do. How is it that they get so much done?

Most people use the phrase “Time Management” when trying to be more productive. Infact there’s a whole genre of books dedicated to  time management

But here’s the thing, you can’t manage time. We all have 24 hours in a day, and there’s nothing we can do to stretch the minutes and seconds. .

But what you can manage is your attention. Successful people have control over their attention, and are able to put it on the tasks that matter most, the tasks that offer the maximum returns in the present moment and then reap the rewards.

Great work comes from  giving attention to your to-dos and activities and by closing out everything that is extraneous.

3 Steps to Managing Your Attention

Step 1: Ask: What has your attention? Write it down

Stop using your mind to hold all your “would do” “should do” “could do” thoughts. Instead commit them  to a system by writing it down.

Use your mind for creative strategic thinking, instead of tracking your tasks.

Step 2: Clarify what has your attention into Next Actions

Stop using generic to-do lists. Most people’s to-do list are a list of unclear stuff that have their attention. Instead use Next action lists.

Here’s what a typical to-do list might look like, compared to a well defined Next Action Based List

Generic To-Do Item

Typical Next Action for Same Item

Presentation Submission Discuss with Ramesh the end goal he has in mind for the presentation.
Mom’s BDay Party Brainstorm with wife on gift ideas
Health Checkup Call 810-987457 and schedule an appointment with Dr. Ram’s secretary.

Click here to learn  what you can do to go from your to-do list items to concrete Next Actions that are specific and thus nip procrastination and uncertainty in the bud.

Step 3: Review your Next Actions on a regular basis

You know the saying “Out of sight, is out of mind”. If you want to use your attention for the most important things, then you need a system to park all your Next Actions from Step 2 in so that you  can review them on a regular basis.

Think of your calendar. Do you use one? Mostly people use a calendar because they realize their mind is not a good system to track meeting commitments. But what about your other commitments? Is your calendar sufficient to manage the complexity of your life? Think about all the emails, follow-ups, health issues, relationships, books to read that you’re keeping track of.

To truly ensure that nothing slips through the cracks, you need a trusted system that keep track of all your commitments. That way it will free up your attention from all the things you have to do and allow you can focus on the task at hand.

Click here  and here to learn more about how to organize your Next Actions in a trusted system, and the best practices to Reflect on them regularly.

There is no sense in lamenting about ‘how time flies’. There is nothing you can do about the way your watch races.

But you can recognize the fact that after stretching time, the next best and most feasible course of action is to manage your attention – your most valued resource. And with the 5 simple steps of GTD® you alone are the master of your Focus & Attention!

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