I often admit to that in my seminars, and lots of people think that’s the silliest thing they’ve ever heard—they see me as highly focused and productive. But to me “lazy” just means making something happen with as little effort as possible. Perhaps it is equally true that I’m the most efficient person I’ve ever met. I seem to have made it part of my life’s work to find out with how little activity I can get a result. [Read more →]
This week there was a thought-provoking Atlanticarticle by Linda Stone. She suggests that output is applicable for measuring the productivity of machines, but a more appropriate metric for human productivity is engagement. Here’s a brief excerpt, but the article is not long and is well worth a couple of minutes of your reading time.
Machines Can’t Flow: The Difference Between Mechanical and Human Productivity
More output, produced faster may be great metrics for machines, but for homo sapiens, the most powerful metric is engagement.
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it seemed machines could do anything. At that time, productivity experts predicted that machines and new technologies would mean we’d only have to work four hours a day. But, as we all know, that’s not what has happened. Instead, the definition of human productivity merged with the definition of machine productivity: more work, faster pace, more efficiently.
What if we rethink productivity? Today, we define productivity for humans the same way we do for machines. What if we create metrics around engagement, for schools, for the workplace, and for our lives? Instead of evaluating output, we could evaluate process, outcomes, and quality.
When was the last time you had what David Allen calls “mind like water?” If not lately, or not as often as you’d like, take the Guided GTD Mind Sweep webinar this Thursday, June 13 from 10am-11am Pacific time. This working webinar will give you a supportive and fun opportunity to capture what’s really grabbing your attention. It will also give you a refresher on the fundamental questions to ask to keep things off your mind and get them into your trusted GTD system.
GTD is about paying attention to what has your attention. This Q&A explores how you need “attention strategies” that match your contexts (so you don’t slip on that banana peel).
The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World
The tech-industry veteran Linda Stone on how to pay attention James Fallows
A longtime tech executive, Linda Stone worked on emerging technologies at Apple and then Microsoft Research in the 1980s and ’90s. Fifteen years ago, she coined the term continuous partial attention to describe the modern predicament of being constantly attuned to everything without fully concentrating on anything. Since then, she has frequently written and lectured about the challenges of living in an always-on, hyperconnected world.
James Fallows: You’re well known for the idea of continuous partial attention. Why is this a bad thing?
Linda Stone: Continuous partial attention is neither good nor bad. We need different attention strategies in different contexts. The way you use your attention when you’re writing a story may vary from the way you use your attention when you’re driving a car, serving a meal to dinner guests, making love, or riding a bicycle. The important thing for us as humans is to have the capacity to tap the attention strategy that will best serve us in any given moment.
JF: What do you mean by “attention strategy”?
LS: From the time we’re born, we’re learning and modeling a variety of attention and communication strategies. For example, one parent might put one toy after another in front of the baby until the baby stops crying. Another parent might work with the baby to demonstrate a new way to play with the same toy. These are very different strategies, and they set up a very different way of relating to the world for those children. Adults model attention and communication strategies, and children imitate. In some cases, through sports or crafts or performing arts, children are taught attention strategies. Some of the training might involve managing the breath and emotions—bringing one’s body and mind to the same place at the same time.
Self-directed play allows both children and adults to develop a powerful attention strategy, a strategy that I call “relaxed presence.”
Question: How can we apply the GTD principles in our lives, where we are often burdened by stress and other pressures of a hyper-competitive world?
David Allen’s answer: The opportunities to apply the key principles of GTD are both immediate and infinite. We live in a continual flow of making and renegotiating our agreements with ourselves and others — whatever it is that we think we might want to do or experience that we haven’t yet. This can range from a poem we feel like writing, to a company we want to start, to a walk we want to take, to the feeling we should clean up our old emails. The point is not to finish everything, but to be constructively engaged with our process of creating and completing.
Our one-day GTD® Mastering Workflow seminar is packed with practical recommendations and examples about how to put GTD to work for you—at work, at home, and in everything you do. Here is our latest summer schedule: