The Attention Compass

As knowledge workers, our attention is our productive asset. 

One of the responsibilities of management in the firm is to preserve the assets of the firm. A manager who lets those assets degrade is a poor manager.

I say this to highlight the proper approach to self-management. One of our responsibilities is to preserve our asset, our attention.

Our attention asset can degrade in much the same way as other assets, through misuse and poor maintenance.

We can misuse our attention by squandering it throughout the day, spending it on things that don't bring value to our lives. We can also misuse it by not defending it, by letting other people pull it away from where we have decided to put it. Finally, if we are hypnotized by the urgent, rather than focused on the important, crises occur at unpredictable times that demand our attention. The Attention Compass represents a methodology for controlling how we spend our attention.

Poor maintenance is a result of not understanding how our attention works. Our attention is strengthened or weakened based on how we habitually use it, so misuse, over time, makes it weak. Allowing interruptions or engaging in multitasking fragments our attention and weakens our ability to sustain focused attention over time. Deep work and mindfulness practices strengthen our attention and give use greater ability to focus over extended periods. Finally, if we are storing too many disparate thoughts or tasks in our brains, we feel distracted and find it difficult to maintain our focus. The Attention Compass presents a framework and a discipline for focusing our attention, using it to produce the results we desire in the timeframes we select.

The Attention Compass is based on several principles that I discovered from the work of others, along with a few that I uncovered myself. GTD, Deep Work, and The Secret Weapon, among others, form the foundation of the discipline. But the focus on attention (as compared to time) and using our attention to uncover our roles are, as far as I can tell, new contributions to self-management practices. Also, adopting the discipline of the attention compass is the precursor to utilizing roles finder to help you understand the roles you have adopted and to realize the value of making tradeoffs and plans at the role level, rather than at the task level.

On this site, I'll show the basics of the Attention Compass, which are not particularly complex. But there is a significant difference between understanding a methodology and developing a discipline. We need the discipline, the routine habits of working in our lives, to reap the benefits of harnessing our attention. So, as you begin to integrate the methodology into your workflow, keep returning to my blog for encouragement and additional insight. Also get someone to hold you accountable for how you use your attention, a coach to give you tips and point out things that you may not see. Feel free to contact me for personal coaching.