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When you think about it, “time management” is sort of an odd phrase. Time always marches forward, and we all have the same number of hours in each day. You can control how you use those hours, but ultimately, time isn’t something we can truly harness.

That’s why a number of leaders and productivity experts have shifted their focus to a new concept—attention management. But what’s the difference between these two concepts, and how might attention management impact your own work life?

What is Time Management?

First, a couple of definitions are in order.

When we talk about time management, we’re talking about your ability to plan out your day, your week, and your month, scheduling your time, prioritizing your responsibilities, and being as productive as possible. Again, you can’t actually create more time for yourself; time management merely seeks to be a responsible steward of the time you’ve been given.

What is Attention Management?

Attention management, on the other hand, is all about examining the amount of attention you give to certain tasks or concerns. The point of attention management is to ensure that you’re focusing on the things that really matter—things that are urgent, important, or ideally both—without being distracted by things of less relevance.

It’s no great surprise that attention management has become so popular in recent years. After all, its emphasis is on avoiding distraction—and we live in an era where distractions are abundant! Email, Twitter, Facebook, breaking news headlines—they’re all there, all the time, fighting for our attention and keeping us from the tasks that matter most. Attention management seeks to put them in their place.

Why Does Attention Management Matter?

If you’ve ever met anyone who complains about not having enough hours in the day, yet also finds the time to update Facebook seven times in the span of an afternoon, well, then you see why attention management can be so beneficial—and how it provides an alternative view of time management. It effectively redeems your time by freeing it from the things that don’t offer real value.

Attention management comes with some basic tenets that you can implement today:

  • Spend some device-free time at the start of each day.
  • Always focus on the highest value activities first.
  • Avoid multi-tasking and task-switching; commit to a project, and finish it.
  • Take some down time for yourself!