Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.
All the tea drinkers out there would agree with me if I say that TEA helps us get things done. It makes us more productive. But I am not actually talking about the TEA in the cup. I am talking about a different TEA . A TEA that will help us plan our days better and make us more productive.
Before we start. Let’s look at how we plan our days or our to-do lists. We have x number of tasks to do, and y number of hours to do them in. May be 8 tasks in 10 hours. We write them down on a paper, or an app, or just mentally record it.
But, is it enough to just look at those x number of hours when we plan? Is that the only factor? Not really. We actually focus too much on time that we forget two other important factors that help us get things done. Energy and attention.
Productivity is a game of managing three things, Time, Energy, and Attention (TEA, So, this is the TEA that I am talking about). These are three things that we almost treat as unlimited, but in real, are acutely limited. These three are interdependent, and to be efficient, any productivity plan has to include all three of them. Let’s take a look.
Time: “Damn it! It’s already 9.” Sounds familiar? Why is it that after years and years of time tables and calendars, and alarms, we still have trouble managing time?
May be because, in spite of knowing that time is a finite resource, we treat it as infinite. We believe that we can let a little of it get away today and then catch more of it tomorrow.
We constantly talk about not having enough of it, and how it flies off before you can do anything. In reality, when time presents itself, we ignore it, and when it’s gone, we complain about it.
So, what do we do to manage time better? That question is worth a thousand books. But for starters, you can treat time as something that you cannot generate at will, and it will change the way you manage it.
Energy: How many of our best laid plans have gone to waste not because we didn’t have the time, but because we didn’t have the energy? Many. The presentation that we were supposed to prepare, the email that we had to send, the movie that we had to go to and so on.
Energy is as important a component of productivity as time is. If we understand how our energy affects our productivity and plan accordingly, we will instantly be more productive. The common mistake, when we don’t understand our energy levels, is that we schedule the low impact activities (like checking email, or facebook newsfeed) when our energy levels are high and high impact activities (like the project plan we have to write), when our energy level is the lowest. As evident, this isn’t the right strategy. Try doing it the other way. Schedule your high impact activities in the high energy zone, and the low impact activities in the low energy zone. You will instantly feel the difference.
Attention: We do not pay much attention to attention. We believe in the infinite capacity of our brains and believe that it can focus on any number of tasks. We pride ourselves as great multitaskers, and believe that multitasking is the chosen path to true productivity. But it’s not true.
Like time and energy, attention is also a limited resource. We can only focus on so many things a day. We spread our attention too thin that we spend it on things that do not matter to us (eg: the news item about the octopus who ate a shark) and then struggle to find it when we really need it (eg: to make that presentation).
And we are so surrounded with attention guzzlers (buzzing smartphones, unimportant emails, pesky advertisements, etc) that out of the three parts of the TEA, attention is the most difficult to manage.
So, how do we manage attention? Again, that requires a lengthy discussion. But you can start with making a list of your common distractions, and you know what to do next.
So, that’s the TEA (Time, Energy, and Attention). Now that we understand the TEA, how do we deal with them? How do we manage them better? That’s for another post. For now, I want you to do something. The next time you sit down to write down your to-do list, think of the TEA. Like how a good tea (the cup one this time) refreshes you, this TEA will also help you get things done better.