Microsoft recently concluded, after a study, that people now lose concentration after 8 seconds. Gold fish used to be referred to as having a ridiculously low attention span of 9 seconds. This means we are even worse.
While our brains have unbelievable, untapped capacities, we lessen its efficiency when we are not focused. Our brains are pulled in so many directions at once that we really limit our ability to do any one task very well. You know, multitasking might sound really nice on a resume, it’s confirmed that people who do many things at the same time do not pay attention, memorize, or manage tasks as well as those who do one thing at a time through focusing.
In my Smart Drugs Experiment so far, the dominant effect of the drugs have been focus and nothing else for me. Nothing absolutely dramatic for me. So if I would replicate the effects of this induced focus it would be right for me to share a few lessons on how to achieve insane focus. I learned a few from Elle Kaplan, CEO of LexionCapital, an investment management firm.
Set your intentions
The experts at Harvard recommend that we are deliberate about our attention and that we set an intention for our attention before we are caught in the moment of distraction.
As we start our work day in the morning we should first ask ourselves what is most important to us today? What is our mood? What expectations do we have of our colleagues?
Once you recognize your position, make two lists: what will you focus most of your attention to (because it is most important to you today) and what information do you have the likelihood of missing (because it does not match your mental state or goals)?
Classify what matters most and set a positive intention. If your direct report made a mistake that has created a setback for the team, you should choose to focus your attention on moving forward, rather than hammering the details of the mistake that was made.
Use and Unuse Technology
While technology can help you gain focus and increase productivity, the avoidance of technology can also help. According to Elle,
“Our attention spans have a pretty small window when competing with all of the beeps, flashing lights and vibrations coming from our computer monitors, smart phones and fitness watches.
The research found that these alerts send a message to our brains that something else is urgently needing our attention, when in reality, it is rarely actually urgent or even relatively significant.
Filter your email, automate your news, and use simple, free tools to help manage your social media presence. Seeing a notification releases dopamine in our brain, causing us to be addicted to these digital signals. Using technology to automate will help you abandon the idea that every notification is urgent, or that you have to share every article on four different networks.
For instance, Tiffany Sauder, founder and president of Element Three, said that the first time her company landed a big client, she felt like she worked for her inbox and not for herself. She realized how detrimental a loss of focus can be for a fledgling company, so she began using Gmail filters and setting aside specific parts of her day to tackler her inbox.“
With the disuse of technology, I find that when I switch off my phone while on serious intentional work, I get more done. There’s the initial struggle and fear that you may miss an important call, an urgent request etc. So far, nothing has killed me or harmed me.
An hour of focus daily
What I find to be really useful while I switch off from technology and take on a singular important task is to give one hour of concentrated work a day. This is something I learned from Srinivas Rao who believes that:
- With one focused hour a day you can write a book within a year, write 1000 words a day or finish a 45,000-word manuscript in 6 months.
- With one focused hour a day you can easily develop a daily writing habit, and even write something daily as Seth Godin does.
- With one focused hour a day you can make time to read the books you’ve been wanting to read.
- With one focused hour you can find flow and build momentum for your creative endeavor
- With one focused hour a day you can learn a new language
In summary, making the most of my productivity impacting my world as I want requires that I set the intention, I choose how I will use technology to aid this and then block out time daily that would be full of uninterrupted focus.
I’m optimizing my life for deep work, creating that one hour a day that I’m dedicating it to. I’m making that one hour a day my personal ritual.
Does this make sense to you too?