I have a confession to make, I teach people how to focus in a world that’s designed to distract them, but in COVID Life I’ve found distraction creeping back in. Have you noticed a shift in yourself? An uncontrollable urge to fill the spare minutes you have, picking up your device and scrolling the news or social media only to find yourself at the end of the day feeling flat and with a To Do List that remains undone?
It’s not surprising, given most technologies these days are designed to capture as much of your attention as possible. Your attention has become a highly valuable commodity. So valuable in fact that companies like Netflix now claim sleep as one of their biggest competitors. Cal Newport’s research has shown that we have wired a whole generation to operate in nothing but a constant state of distraction. Partner this with the fact that pre-COVID we were dealing with a busy epidemic, a place where every waking moment was filled and being busy and burnt out was worn like a badge of honour. Many of us then just transferred our busy skillset into COVID Life.
Productivity has become our disease. Our focus on doing has compromised our state of being. The need to be busy continues to hold us back as we unconsciously respond to distractions and the things that truly matter and light us up as human beings get side lined.
Building skill in focus requires us to value ‘being’ again. Being in a moment, being with ourselves, being connected humanly to others. In 2017 Manoush Zomorodi shared in her Ted Talk How Boredom Can Lead To Your Most Brilliant Ideas that neuroscience has shown that our brains do their best work when our Default Mode is ignited. This occurs when we are bored. Basically, it’s in the stillness that the dots connect, it’s where we figure things out and yet where is the stillness in our current work environment? Where is it that we are incentivised to focus on one thing, to prioritise thinking over acting? Where might one even begin to build their focus muscle in a way that is meaningful?
Lastly, be kind to yourself and embrace imperfection. Developing your focus muscle is a practice. You will have good days and bad days and that is completely normal, the success of your practice lies in the discipline of showing up each day and trying. I’m far from perfect, like I mentioned earlier I’ve fallen off the focus wagon I’m human. I’m an imperfect experimenter and it’s this mindset that enables me to reprioritise my daily focus practice and realign my work and my life to more of what matters.
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