Ray Ozzie on His Personal Attention Management Techniques

April 23, 2008 at 7:54 am | Posted in Attention Management, interruption science, Microsoft | 1 Comment

Ever since I’ve had my radar up on attention management issues, I’ve noticed many interesting techniques that people use to manage their time and attention.  While I’m generally focused on how entire enterprises can address information overload (what I call Enterprise Attention Management), I’m always on the lookout for what individuals do to help manage their time as well (personal attention management).  For anyone looking for an executive level view of personal attention management, I’d recommend listening to the first few minutes of this Channel 9 interview with Ray Ozzie, Chief Software Architect at Microsoft

Ray was asked how he balances the need to span a vast spectrum of activities and the need to go deep as well.  He said (rough quotes here since I am not that skilled at transcription)

Attention management is biggest challenge of the role; the pace is fairly brutal.  At the beginning of the year I’ll plan out how many hours I want to spend in different categories: some for high level strategic things, time with product groups, and I realized you have to create whitespace because day-to-day interruptions cause you to thrash if you just deal with incoming issues.  You have to create time to think about what’s happening in the environment.

I create whitespace by going away – international travel, “think week”, and other ways.  The best way I’ve found to clear my mind is to go to a conference that’s off the beaten path or go somewhere with my wife that’s not technology related.

When I was coding I had a four hour rule that said don’t code unless you know you’ll have four hours of contiguous time because otherwise you’re just introducing more bugs.

It’s the life management equivalent.


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  1. […] This can help you get the work done on time, with less stress and higher quality.  Ray Ozzie gave a good example of his approach in an interview: “When I was coding I had a four hour rule that said don’t […]

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