Attention Matters More than Time

You have time. You're just wasting it.

Tethered, a single word that describes my relationship with technology.

It means to connect, but it also means to tie with a rope or chain to restrict movement. And that’s what technology does to my mind. It connects and restricts me.

Technology is often thought of as freeing us. But what I’ve come to discover is that there is a cost associated with this connectedness. Tethering your phone to your laptop puts more demand on your phone. And so does keeping your mind always connected. It has a cost, your payments are your productivity and happiness.

Knowledge work has no doors. There is no exit sign to pass under and no parking lot to escape to. Your work is always there, running in the background.

You feel like you’re living at work because you are.

Responsiveness Drains Attention

Why would you live at work?

The answer is simple, responsiveness.

When you reward responsiveness above performance it forces you to pull for information.

Technology has no shortage of ways to get information. What once kept you connected now keeps you always-on. You have apps for email, instant messaging, and push notifications for everything. Maintaining that level of availability is at the core of why you’re unproductive. With so many demands on your attention, your capacity to perform depletes.

Caffeine nor a day's rest will restore you.

More Time with Less Control

Time was once scarce. But now it isn't.

Technology has been giving you back your time. Letters no longer require a person to deliver them. Conversations no longer need to be face-to-face. And conferences no longer require a ballroom. Hell, even groceries no longer require a trip to the store.

Each of these puts time back in your hourglass. It doesn't feel like you have more time though does it?

Instead, the opposite is true, you feel you have less time.

You miss those excuses to escape. That commute to work, that drive to the grocery store, and that long lunch with rich conversations. Each gave you something you're now missing, a chance to disconnect.

Life has become a video game you can't put down.

Anything without an escape is a trap. Why do you feel less happy with more time?

Morgan Housel points out in his book "The Psychology of Money", the number one predictor of happiness isn't money, fame, or power. It's control over your time.

Technology has been giving you back your time, but it’s been stealing your attention.

Lost Control of Time

Even with your phone off, it pulls the puppet strings of your attention. 

Roughly 25% of my phone unlocks are prompted by notifications. The remaining 75% are feed driven. I either unlock my phone and immediately start scrolling social media feeds or I open apps and pull for notifications.

Within these two percentiles, I've lost control over my time.

It's in my idleness that technology has inflicted the most damage.

It has stolen my leisure. Yes, I have more time. But the quality of that time is destroyed by my inability to put down the screen.

I never fully disconnect and therefore I never fully recover.

My cell phone usage is driven by one thing, availability. It's the excuse I use to persuade myself that it's worth the cost. I need to be available for my work, friends, and family. It is the desire to be available that has taken me from them.

In my attempt to be reachable, I've become absent in reality.

Conversations with friends have evaporated into likes on posts with occasional comments. I now favor shallow work instead of digging deep enough to find it within me to output something of true value. 

Where your attention goes, time follows. You have time. You're just wasting it.

Your Output isn’t in Hours Anymore

Eight-hour workdays are a relic of the past.

What someone can get done in a single hour can exceed what a team could do in a day or week, given the right conditions and skills. Hours are not an accurate means of output.

More hours isn't how you get ahead. Your ability to focus is. The ability to pay attention and resist distraction is the true amplifier of productivity in today's world. In the industrial age, output was in hours. The reason was maximum efficiency had been achieved.

It took me too long to realize I hadn't achieved that level of efficiency. And the cost I paid was in hours. Hours, stolen from my family and myself that I’ll never get back.

Output scales much further with focus and intensity than with hours.

Time Management isn’t Enough

I find the statement "I don't have time" hilarious.

It's funny because sitting in your pocket is at least three hours per day. You protect those thirty-minute and one-hour blocks on your calendar. But what about those two, three, five, and ten-minute blocks sprinkled throughout your days?

Where have the moments that accumulate into hours gone? You and I both have time. In fact, the same amount of time.

We share a struggle, the modern struggle.

An army of scientists & statisticians is against us. Protecting time is no longer enough.

Time management will keep you on track. But it was developed before much of the struggle you and I now face existed. You must concern yourself with how to resist, mitigate, and remove distractions. 

Attention is the key to your freedom.


You can send your feedback by email to: duffney@hey.com or via Twitter: @joshduffney