It’s time to re-claim our ability to concentrate and focus…

Last year i went to see this act at the Edinburgh fringe festival. It’s the Columbian circus.

The picture you’re seeing to the right doesn’t come close to illustrating the ferocious intensity of the performance but it’s still quite something.

Just so you know, there were no safety harnesses and none of the performers were suspended by ropes. Watching it was enough to make my head spin and stomach churn.

What caught my attention the most was the intense focus the performers had. The look in their eyes was incredible: sheer ferocity of focus.

No wonder, of course, as the life of their fellow performers were in their hands.

The Age of Information Overload…

It most likely stood out because modern society doesn’t exactly encourage focus and concentration like this.

In fact it encourages the opposite.

We live in an age of information overload and multi-tasking. Where our attention is constantly being pulled in a multitude of different directions. Where it’s all too easy for our focus to become completely diffused or fragmented.

But the thing is, we NEED a high level of concentration and focus to do meaningful work. How else would we manage to get the more complex and cognitively demanding tasks done?

The world needs people to create meaningful work yet modern society constantly pushes us to split our attention in multiple directions.

So it’s vital that we re-capture our ability to concentrate and focus: To become absorbed and lose ourselves in experience more.

And the good news is that you don’t have to carry someone while balancing a ring on your forehead.

You just need to remind yourself of what it feels like, make it more of a priority, and then be disciplined enough to practice.

It’s time to re-learn how to focus…

So how do you focus?

How do you “zone-in” and concentrate in a world that isn’t often conducive to it?

A world that regularly requires us to multi-task and sort through volumes of information to the point of near exhaustion!

Or is this a state of mind that you struggle with? Something that now feels a bit alien to you.

My own approach, and one you can try, is to appreciate that we live in a world that is generally set-up to discourage states of focus and concentration, but to also acknowledge that the same world greatly rewards the meaningful work that can be produced when we utilise these states.

It’s a tricky situation that we find ourselves in. We have to multi-task to a certain degree, and – despite the ADHD they can sometimes help create – services such as email, social media, and instant messaging are wonderful tools to improve connectivity that should be utilised.

But we don’t want to get lost in them and forget to practice our ability to focus on a single activity for a reasonable portion of time.

So it’s about balance; it’s about reminding ourselves that we need to spend time focusing on a singular activity for longer than just a quick glance;  and it’s about developing a strategy to work within the restrictions of a world that encourages us to fragment our attention continually.

A specific strategy…

In terms of a specific strategy, I like to allocate time to do the necessities like answer emails, messages, and also to just do random stuff – like surfing the web or watching YouTube videos of cats doing funny things.

But I do all I can to prioritise time slots each day to focus on singular activities, like, writing, filming, creating content, seeing clients, reading or working on training courses.

And whatever it is I choose for these time slots I do everything I can to commit my entire attention to it. No phones. No tablets. No email.

I also like to linguistically reframe the state.

Rather than call it “focus”, I call it “absorption”.

For me, “focus” feels a little bit too tense; it’s too much work. Absorption gets the job done only with more pleasure and relaxation.

So how could you deliberately practice focus and concentration in your life?

Or, if it works better, how can you practice becoming absorbed?

It might not make it possible for you to carry a woman, balancing on a ring on your forehead, but hopefully it does help you produce some meaningful work.

What’s it like when you commit to something, become absorbed in it, and give it your full attention?

Perhaps even think back to a time when you did.

I’d be willing to wager that your productivity and performance increased, as a result.

I’d also hazard a guess that there was something deeply enjoyable & satisfying about it too. Generally, the more we lose ourselves, the more we find ourselves.

Why not make this more of your daily practice?

I know the world does require us to multi-task so it’s not always easy, but we do still have choice.

Why not make it your choice to re-claim your focus and concentration?

It might just make a big difference.

All the best
S