Your attention is irreplaceable

by | Mar 1, 2016

The one thing we can not change is how we have spent our time.

When it comes to work, I would suggest that most of your time is spent on activities that do not add significant value to the organisation. In fact, some studies suggest up to 80% of your time is wasted on activities that are unproductive. We all know what it’s like; you go to work, you have a coffee, you catch up with your colleagues, you have an impromptu conversation about the state of the country, and before you know it its 10am and you have a meeting. So, you go to the meeting, catch up, have a coffee…

That means that 20% of your time pays for the rest (otherwise you would not have a job right). Pretty cool really, but also highlights the potential we all have to greatly increase our own personal performance.

We can, on the other hand waste time really easily, in fact there are hundreds of ways to waste time (in-effective meetings, low value projects, facebook, coffee, msn news), but there is not yet a way to turn the clocks back. We can also waste time feeling bad about what we have done, and maybe share it with others so we feel better, but ultimately it will not change what happened, or how we spent it.

You can reflect productively, of course, gather the learning and plan to do it differently next time, which is a good use of your time to learn, but so often we do not do this. So often, instead we carry on seeking emotional reassurance that what we did was what anyone would have done, or ignoring it completely.


Ask yourself:

  • How can I get the most out of this meeting to help me get the result we need?
  • Is that meeting really adding value to the strategic priorities?
  • Should I be here, or should I be doing something more productive right now?
  • Have I got time to catch up with my colleagues, or shall we catch up later?
  • Am I putting off the bit I should do, to do something I want to do?
  • Shall I do the hard bit first, then have 30minutes doing that fun project as a way to relax?

I am not convinced 100% productivity is achievable humanly, so instead, scheduling in time more effectively, so you maintain a better balance will improve performance. In fact, just 10 minutes of greater focus on adding value in an 8 hour day will improve your performance by 10% .

(* amazing isn’t it! Almost unbelievable, so here is the math. 20% attention on an 8hr day is 96minutes, so actually 9.6minutes increased focus will net you a 10% improvement).

Martin Knowles

Martin Knowles


About the author

Martin Knowles has worked in a variety of sectors in Learning and Development roles and Contracts for nearly 20 years (DSGi, PCWorld, Capital One, Linklaters, Veolia, Severn Trent, Rolls-Royce, Diageo, Selfridges). He has authored content, books and articles for managers and aspiring leaders, published work in multiple media and won awards for Best Training and Development in Europe.

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