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  • Go into any bookstore in your city, and stop by the self-help section.

  • What will you see?

  • Heaps of productivity lifehacks, tips on getting more done (with less), and time management

  • advice.

  • The truth is, these topics are not relevant anymore.

  • What's relevant today?

  • Attention management.

  • It may be the most critical skill of this century.

  • It used to be that humans craved knowledge.

  • When the industrial revolution began, people switched from manual labor to knowledge workers.

  • People with specific skills and information suddenly became scarce, valuable, and were

  • competed for.

  • Today, information is abundant.

  • And because the human brain cannot digest it all, attention becomes the scarce resource.

  • Thomas H. Davenport defined attention as: “Focused mental engagement on a particular

  • item of information.

  • Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether

  • to act.”

  • There's a limited supply of attention, yet there's an ever-increasing demand for it

  • from media, social networks, and (let's be honest) the whole web.

  • Yet, there is only so much a human brain can focus on; recently, scientists figured out

  • that it's only one task at a time (there's a switching cost to multi-tasking).

  • Think to yourself, reading this sentence right now.

  • You're not doing anything else.

  • I've got your attention.

  • As Economics 101 teaches us, anything that's scarcehas value.

  • We live in a world that's slowly changing from classical economics to the 'attention

  • economy.'

  • Soon enough, you'll be literally paying me attention.

  • What matters today is not how you treat your time and schedule, but where we focus our

  • mental energy.

  • And what, as a result, you focus on and surround your life with.

  • People say they don't have time.

  • It's not true.

  • You, me, and Kim Kardashianwe all have the same 24 hours at our disposal.

  • We're just allocating them in different ways.

  • The problem with most self-help books on time management is that authors wrote them for

  • the world of the past.

  • Most of them, like the bestselling Getting Things Done, was written in (and for) the

  • 20th century.

  • Today, allocating your time towards a particular task doesn't guarantee that it will receive

  • the proper attention due to constant disruptions and interruptions.

  • Hence, you've got to make the switch from time management to attention management.

  • Recently, I started to feel overwhelmed.

  • Having to work two different remote-jobs, plus writing and allocating time for personal

  • projects is difficult.

  • So I automatically, on impulse, started to apply the old time-management techniques on

  • myself.

  • I would wake up earlier.

  • I would separate my day into 3–4 different chunks and try to cram various projects until

  • I realized that it just doesn't work.

  • I couldn't get anything done, and I got tired constantly.

  • Why?

  • Because time allocation is not as important as attention allocation.

  • I learned a few things: Focusing on a task is returning to it every

  • 48 hours.

  • If it takes longer, it's not in the 'focus zone.'

  • There is a cap of 2 different tasks that you can do within a single day.

  • I learned that it's not the work that exhausted me the most, but the switching between different

  • types of work.

  • Workweek should be for work.

  • And personal projects should be taken care of on my own time (e.g., on weekends and holidays).

  • The more creative a task is, the earlier you should work on it.

  • I am a morning person, so I strive to write before breakfast.

  • Stillness breeds focus.

  • Just telling yourself to do a specific activity five minutes longer than usual can help create

  • stillness, and it leads to high-quality focus.

  • With the overflow of information and slow transition into the attention economy, the

  • ability for deep focus becomes a superpower.

  • Very few people can do it.

  • If you look at my takeaways, you'll notice that I said you could only handle two different

  • tasks per day, and you've got to return to a job every 48 hours to keep it in the

  • 'focus zone.'

  • This means that your total focus is four projects, max.

  • And less is more in this case.

  • It's only the deep focus, the 'deep work,' as Cal Newport calls it, that leads to high-quality

  • results and productivity.

  • Dedicate 2020 to mastering this vital skill.

  • You'll thank yourself later.

Go into any bookstore in your city, and stop by the self-help section.

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B1 UK attention focus time management management scarce task

Today’s Most Important Skill

Video vocabulary