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Every aspect of our lives seems to call for productivity, and there’s a relentless search for the perfect strategy to achieve it. In recent times, time management has become the “shiny object,” promising that by taking control over one’s calendar, stress will evaporate, satisfaction and engagement will increase, and life, in general will improve. In fact, in this New York Times article, Adam Grant posits: “There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste.”

There’s no pressure that halts progress quite like the nagging fear that time could be better used. With time management as the hallmark for what a productive day looks like, perfectionist personalities (and everyone else) become paralyzed by its constant, intimidating gaze. Rather than a hyperfocus on time management, Grant proposes a new strategy to achieve peak productivity: attention management. Grant’s new, optimistic take suggests prioritizing “the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.”  He adds, “Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.”

Grant’s research has taught him that productive people go after projects motivated by both improvement and enjoyment, “gravitating toward projects that are both personally interesting and socially meaningful.” The idea that intrinsic motivation is what powers a workplace has been one circulating in popular media.

This well-circulated article on LinkedIn is an open letter to management on why companies struggle to retain talent. The article says that employees are looking to be surrounded by “people who are on fire for what we’re doing.” Beyond that, workers want a job to feel personal, and to feel that the work they’re doing is making a real difference.

Time management enables a day to become a checklist, with tasks to tick off. It’s a compartmentalization of motivation — motivation becomes to simply get it done. Attention management re-prioritizes the driving force behind a day in the office. With robust motivation at the helm, productivity will naturally follow.

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