I recently sat down with Steve Harper, a fellow entrepreneur and speaker, to discuss attention management and my newest book.
You can listen to the podcast or read excerpts from the transcript below.
On the Path to Productivity…
SH: I know you’re excited and proud of Attention Management: How to Create Success and Gain Productivity Every Day. So tell me about it. How did you arrive at this title?
MT: About ten years ago, I really started to recognize how distraction was such a problem for people and that the path to productivity for most people has been time management. But we can’t manage time.
Even if you put something on your calendar and say, “At two o’clock I’m going to do this thing,” if you do that thing and you still field all the distractions, you think “I’m doing the thing.” And so the time that you set aside to do that thing passes and that thing probably isn’t done, or it’s not done well, certainly not to your capabilities.
Studies show that we switch our attention every three minutes and five seconds. You can’t bring your full self to a moment, to a task, to an experience unless you can really be in front of it for more than a couple seconds or minutes at a time.
So I realize that distraction is our problem, and if distraction is our problem, then managing time isn’t our solution.
It’s a theme throughout all my books, but this is really the book that synthesizes all the ideas. But I have to say, I keep studying and reading, and there’s just so much. So there’s probably another book in me about it.
On Managing Distractions…
SH: Oh, I’m sure. I was telling somebody yesterday about this and how excited I was for today’s interview because this book is different than what you find on this type of topic. And somebody said, “Oh, that’s a time management book.” No. You have to read the book in order to understand and appreciate why time management is not relevant here.
MT: For sure it’s a productivity book. But I define productivity as the ability to achieve the results that are most significant to you. To achieve—not just be busy all day.
How many times do we drive home thinking, “I’m exhausted, but I can’t even tell you a single thing I did.” Most of that is because we spend our day fielding distractions.
So it’s a productivity book, but we need to shift the way we think about productivity. Distraction is our problem. Attention management is the logical path to get us to our ability to achieve our most significant results.
SH: And the results that you’re talking about are being better entrepreneurs, better business owners, better leaders, better coworkers and employees, right? Better people in general.
On Unleashing Your Genius…
MT: I call it unleashing your genius. When you can manage your attention, you can bring your full self to the moment—But I don’t just mean your wisdom and your experience and your knowledge, but I also mean your generosity, your humor, your compassion, your empathy, and all of these qualities that we have that combine in the way that is uniquely ours—to bring our full self to that moment, to that task, to that conversation, to that relationship, to that experience, to that moment that you are having. Life gets richer, everything gets better. I just think attention management, for me, is the key to success.
SH: Yeah. Well, there’s so much I want to ask you about this topic just because I’m fascinated by it. I know my listeners on my podcast are always looking for ways to be better individuals. And this is definitely one of those toolsets that you can equip them with to achieve those results.
Later in the podcast, we go on to discuss my first two books and the problem of our attention being demanded by so many things at once. After all, what are you really doing when you’re trying to do everything? Attention management is the modern solution for a modern problem.
Steve is one of the many business owners I’ve worked with in the past. I know his work with me has helped him maximize his productivity in his work and personal life. The training offered on my website can also help you utilize attention management and optimize your productivity.
To learn more about attention management and how it can help you or your team, get started by assessing your own skills with my new Attention Management Assessment.