You can't create more hours in the day to get everything done. You can, however, squeeze more out of each hour by flexing your attention span.
Julian Birkinshaw, a professor at London Business School and the author of Reinventing Management: Smarter Choices for Getting Work Done, writes in Harvard Business Review about how attention, not time, is a company's scarcest resource.
"Our key job as managers is to make efficient use of scarce resources. In the industrial era, the scarce resources were capital and labor. In the knowledge era, we have become accustomed to thinking of knowledge and information as the scarce resources we need to harness. But increasingly, information is ubiquitous and knowledge is shared widely across companies. In such a world, the scarce resource is our own and our employees attention," he writes.
Time is still as tight as ever, but attention is something you can actually shape and exercise. Read Birkinshaw's tips below.
Disconnect everything else.
Birkinshaw says the key to attention management is to maintain discipline between different activities and focus on the correct things. To help your employees, stop throwing different initiatives at them each day. Refocus your company's mission and state the one or two most important goals each day. If forming relationships with clients is your company's business, remind them every day that that's your goal. Birkinshaw says to keep your company's focus simple and clear. "If you emphasize different things each week, people will become confused, and will learn to tune out. But if you come back to the same message time and time again, the effect on your team's behavior is likely to be substantial," he writes.
Know when to stop research.
Whether you're researching a potential new client, collecting data for the next board meeting, or collecting facts for a report, you need to learn when to stop collecting information. The ease with which you can gather data makes it that much harder to know when you have everything you need. Birkinshaw says you should teach your employees the dangers of "analysis paralysis," that feeling you do not know enough on a subject. Make your employees form their hypothesis or argument early and give them an end-of-the-day deadline for all research projects.
The ubiquity of information can be a bad thing. Encourage employees to untether themselves from Google and ask them to use their own intuition. "An ounce of real insight is worth a pound of data," Birkinshaw writes.
Avoid becoming overstimulated.
All the information, technology, and high-speed work employees must deal with can be overwhelming. Birkinshaw says you need to take "low-tech" breaks to meditate and be mindful, periods of time when you "make sense of the stimuli you have been bombarded with, and where your ideas are allowed to gestate." Teach your employees to take time to clear their head and reorganize their priorities whenever they feel distracted.