An emphasis on “return on attention” can help leaders focus on tasks that achieve long-term success and build on them by finding strategies to turn them into processes and systems that save time, writes Ed Batista. “The efficient use of our time and attention is important, but doing the wrong things more efficiently is an easy way to expend a lot of energy going nowhere,” Batista writes.
This isn’t about productivity. That framing often yields a focus on “doing more things,” or “doing things more efficiently.” The efficient use of our time and attention is important, but doing the wrong things more efficiently is an easy way to expend a lot of energy going nowhere. We should never confuse motion with progress. 
A more useful guiding principle is leverage. One way I discuss this with clients is by distinguishing among different orders of magnitude:
1x. 10x. 100x. These aren’t precise measurements, but precision isn’t the point–what matters is simply the recognition that some tasks and activities generate an immense amount of long-term value relative to others. So what can we do with this idea? And what are its implications?
Return on Attention
We’re familiar with the concept of return on investment, but we usually think of the resource being invested as capital. This is understandable–most leaders operate under financial constraints, and grasping the ROI of a given initiative helps to ensure that their capital is being put to its best use.
But we often fail to appreciate that our time and attention are also finite resources, and in some circumstances they’re more limited than capital.  And going a step further, I’d argue that attention is a more important constraint than time. As I’ve noted before,
Time merely passes, while focused attention makes things happen. When we’re able to gather and direct our attention toward a particular task or interaction, we can have a significant impact in a minimal amount of time. But when we’re unable to bring our attention to bear on the work at hand, all the time in the world is insufficient.