Attention is our most precious resource
"Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that.
So if you make the moment matter, it all matters." —Ellen Langer
Our lives are a series of moments during our short time on the planet. Spent wisely, they move us towards the quality relationships, career progression, health, and well being we desire. Unshepherded, they are easily squandered, days ending with an unsatisfactory answer to “What did I get done today?” Nothing is more important than directing our attention with care.
The email inbox is the most-used tool for attention management
"Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things." —Peter Drucker
The email inbox is the #1 tool today’s workforce uses to direct their attention. The statistics speak for themselves: we spend up to 13 hours/week on email. Unfortunately it’s doing a terrible job of directing our attention to what matters. Items of critical importance land one second, and are drowned out by the trivial a few seconds later, many of us with an inbound volume so ferocious it’s difficult to complete a single task without being interrupted.
Email is here to stay
"Nobody goes to that place anymore, it’s too crowded." —Yogi Berra
Some argue email is dead. IMAP and SMTP, the protocols for getting emails to and from email servers, are now 40 years old. But stats show the opposite, business email traffic is consistently growing. Email (or what it represents), a fast, flexible, asynchronous, open, and collaborative communication network is here forever.
Your ideas matter most
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. It is that we are powerful beyond measure.” —Marianne Wiliamson
If we rely on the inbox to direct our attention, we’ll spend our lives doing the bidding of others. To reach our full potential we must be proactive, regardless of our place in the corporate hierarchy. Meeting action items, insights from mentors, and especially ideas that come from within ourselves, these represent our most unique contributions and are critical to carve out time for. In fact, the most important matters can be the least urgent. They will never scream to be at the top of our lists, but they will haunt us if left undone.
There is an answer
"Technology is a tool. A basic tool saves time. A good tool give purpose and meaning, and a great tool gives joy." —Jack Dorsey
The to-do list is never complete. The email torrent never stops. Are we doomed? While everyone has hacked together some way to manage their attention, best practices do exist. “Getting Things Done” by David Allen is the most systematic approach we have found for dealing with the onslaught and has become part of Handle’s DNA. David argues we all have 30-100 active projects and simply need to steadily take next steps to maintain a feeling of progress and reduce our stress. A tool that made this type of workflow natural would bring joy back to our days.
One list, the Handle Timeline
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” —David Allen
To direct our attention to the things that matters most, we need to be driven by a source we trust, and that trust comes from having everything we need to do in one place. In Handle, we call this the Handle Timeline. It’s one list that holds our important emails, priority to-dos, and upcoming calendar appointments from both work and personal life all in one place. But as you can imagine, this is a lot of data that can easily overwhelm us. Timeline is smart. It knows the time, our current location and projects, and our expressed priorities to keep the important items top of mind. Everything not immediately actionable is out of view to remove distraction.
Minimal planning required
“Once you have decided on your number one task, anything else
that you do other than that is a relative waste of time” —Brian Tracy
There’s always more to do than time to do it. With everything in one list, taking a few moments to ensure effort is being directed to things in priority order pays dividends. The to-do list will never be empty, but Handle’s dynamic planning allows our focus to stay on the good stuff, even as priorities shift throughout the day.
Just do it
"To do two things at once is to do neither." —Publilius Syrus
With the most important next action identified, we can focus with confidence. Our subconscious won't bother us once our inbound queues have been processed. It’s time to buckle down and do what we do best. No loss of energy from context switches, no distractions from new emails arriving, no hunting for emails and information (they’re already attached to the to-dos), just flow. And when we are done, the task is complete, or our energy is depleted, take a break and then repeat.