How To Focus In A Distracted World
While the internet has brought us tremendous benefits to our lives, we are seamless distracted than ever before. You find the average person on some form digital media for 8 hours and 41 minutes per day, and we check our phones 150 times a day. With so much information battle for space in our mind, it is no wonder our attention span has slowly decreased.
Microsoft recently published a report that said the increase us of a smartphone has led to the decline in attention span from 12 seconds to 8 seconds today. Therefore even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.
As a result, we live fragmented lives and our ability to focus, create, and accomplish suffers. Therefore we need to take responsibility for our own lives and to find time to focus on things that matter to us and give them our fullest attention plus learn to live efficiently in a world full of distractions.
So why should we find focus in our lives?
In a book from Cal Newport called Deep Work — Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World — He makes the point that to remain of value in our current economy is as he puts it the ability to learn complicated things quickly with focus. He calls this “deep work” “a professional activity that is performed distraction free, which pushes your brain to its limits”. Therefore you go on to create things that are of value, which are rare and more importantly hard to replicate. While he calls shallow work — answering emails all day or adding Facebook likes.
While another viewpoint that bringing focus into your life can bring greater meaning, happiness and satisfaction. For example the science writer Winfred Gallagher — in her book Rapt. She points out that when she was diagnosed with cancer, rather than spending time worrying about the deadly disease, she gave her rapt attention and focused on her writing, spending time with her family, her evening walks and 6:30 pm Martini. That way she points out to spend your time concentration of things so intensely that there is no attention left to worry about problems in life. She goes on to say that “the idle mind is the devil’s workshop” — “lose focus in life you fixate on what is wrong with your life instead of what is right”.
Therefore, from these two examples, you can see that finding focus in your life can help to bring rewards and deep meaning and satisfaction into your life than spending time in fragmented distractions.
So finally — why is finding focus in your life simply not easy to do?
To understand this let’s look at the main obstacles with building focus it to your life. Firstly our ability to work on hard things takes training; our mental muscle to work on hard things takes the time to build. After a while of being fully focused we get drained. Therefore we need to build this up like going to the gym. Start with 20 minutes of being fully focused and then to 90 minutes then add a break with the maximum time of full focus being around four hours in total. Furthermore, human beings have desires, and people fight urges all day long, which is why the internet is so addictive. When a long lost friend sends you an email, or you get a Facebook like this release the chemical dopamine, which makes experience pleasure, which is why you go back for more & therefore are distracted. So we need to build in time to be fully focused.
To conclude there is little doubt our world is filled with distractions — it always has been. However, those who achieve the greatest rewards and meaning in their lives learn to manage them effectively.
So I challenge you this coming week
Firstly — Spend time thinking about what you want to achieve in life — what are your career goals? What matters in your life? Start to spend time even if it just a few hours a day in deep focus in these aims that matter the most to you.
Secondly — Examine your environment — what are your distractions that keep you from doing your best work. Can you unplug and focus or only answer your emails at certain times of the day? Experiment with what works for you and your life & become acutely aware of what you are doing at all times.
Lastly to remind ourselves that finding focus is not going to be the easiest road to travel, but giving our fullest attention to what matters in our life will bring the most rewards, joy and happiness to our lives.