Core Four: The Four Disciplines of Attention Management – DBR 015

Think about attention management. About how we deal with our own ability to focus. That attention is primarily directed at the work we have to do. We need our full attention on our work, at least to the degree that our work is difficult and challenging.
One of my clients asked me to organize from the big picture perspective, what we’re trying to do with our attention. What are the big rocks of dealing with our attention effectively.
Attention = ability to focus
  • There are four pieces, more detail below
    • The first piece – Defend your atteniton
    • The second piece – Manage your attention
    • The third piece – Grow your attention
    • The fourth piece – Audit your attention
  • Four parts in place mean that we’re really good at this Attention thing
First rock – Defend our attention
  • The field is not level
  • The three enemies to defense – the three attackers – waste, interruption, and distraction
  • The first enemy – Waste is those things that have crept into our lives as, now, habits
    • Nobody is doing this to us, we’re doing it to ourselves (lack of focus?)
    • We can easily lose ourselves
    • Rabbit trails
    • Waste from apps
  • The second enemy – Theft of our attention through interruption
    • We lose our train of thought, our place
    • We actually handle this pretty well in most circumstances
  • The third enemy – Distraction = self-interruption
    • Ideas and reminders pop up at the wrong time
    • We combat this one by getting stuff out of our heads
  • Defending against three primary things
    • Attention Compass covers all three areas
    • Get started now – save your attention
Second rock – Manage our attention
  • There’s a positive, offensive, “put your attention here” and a negative, defensive, “take things out of your awareness”
  • Don’t want it to bother you? You’re on defense. Capture it.
    • We empty our brains to avoid this kind of distraction
    • Eject it from your mind into the outside world and convince your brain that its OK
    • We’re not just throwing it off our desk, that’s when we get to offense
  • Don’t want to lose it or hunt for it? You’re on offense. Put it where you’ll trip over it
    • The Attention Compass as a ‘room of requirement’ or ‘magic bag of holding’
    • The positive – it’s where you would naturally look for it
    • Might have to get inventive on this stuff – laundry basket
    • Reminders, used properly
  • Two sides of the same coin
    • Both of these things are core work and they work together
    • These two rest on the first one – not worth it if you’re just frittering attention away
    • Also, these two are where the toolset is critical
    • Summary – get it out and put it where you’ll trip over it
Attention Compass was developed specifically with this use case in mind
Third rock – Extending our attention
  • Define extending our attention
    • First metaphor – physical strength – duration of strength and intensity of strength
    • Second metaphor – source of light – length is battery or bulb life
    • Source of light – second is intensity – tight beam
  • Extending our attention involves both kinds of extension
    • How – discipline – stick for longer
    • How – practice – learn quick intensity
    • Mindfulness – definition
    • Mindfulness in practice – stretch yourself and use the brain dump
    • Work on both intensity and duration
  • Tactics for extending
    • Three enemies of extension – reactivity, perfectionism, procrastination
    • The first enemy – reactivity
      • Tactic for reactivity – work block
      • Start small
      • Blocks work for extending, as well
      • Ending a work block
    • The second enemy – perfectionism
      • Tactic for perfectionism – time boxing
      • Set an amount of time
      • Must deliver at the end
      • A time box makes you aware of time passing
      • Solicit the feedback and adjust
    • The third enemy – procrastination
      • Procrastination – tactic – clear definitions
      • Smaller tasks really help (example)
    • Recap – three enemies, three tactics
      • Interactions – work blocks=extending, time boxing=intensity
Here is where AC’s daily and weekly review shine – there’s a clear, defined process to change, if needed
Fourth rock – audit
  • Challenges
    • Collecting good data as an input to the audit
    • Can I do anything about it, or is my attention controlled by others
    • The other three support having good data
  • Perform the Audit
    • Step one – have an intent or expectation
    • Step two – collect data
    • Step three – analyze
    • Step four – plan for corrections
  • One of the primary points of an audit is to make changes to your system
  • You have to have a system before an audit makes sense
  • Attention Compass’s process is most valuable here
Recap – four rocks and you need them all
  • Defend – the foundation
  • Manage – apply your attention well, offense and defense, the tool is important
  • Extend – avoid reactivity, perfectionism, and procrastination
  • Audit – how can you get better? How can you target attention toward your roles?