We’re currently working with a client on productivity, attention and focus: timely given the recent widespread coverage of the 4-day working week and its impact on productivity. As you know, we’re big advocates of encouraging flexible working so we’re glad to see this even though we know that it can be challenging for organisations to manage this change.
Coming back to the topic of attention and focus, I came across a really fascinating book, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari. It’s a long one and, while I found so much of it shocking, I wanted to share some of the stats I found particularly surprising.
What stood out to me
I learnt that the average student can only focus for 65 seconds before they get distracted. If you’re thinking this is something that only affects young people then you’d be wrong, as an average office worker’s focus is still only three minutes. Better, but not by much. This might also be overly optimistic as other studies show a similarly low attention span for office workers of 75 seconds.
Here’s where it gets even more shocking. After we’re distracted, it takes an average of 23 minutes for us to return our focus to the task. Putting this into context, an officer worker is focussed for approx. 6 minutes in 1 hour i.e., 10% of the time. Simply mind-blowing.
As you’d expect there’s a lot about the impact of technology on our attention and focus but that’s only part of the story. I won’t be able to do justice to Johann Hari’s fascinating work in one blog so I’d recommend checking it out for yourself or get in touch and we can talk about it together.
Improving your attention and focus
Helpfully, Johann shares some tips on how to improve and I’ve picked some that I’m going to try out myself:
- 1. Getting more sleep.
The amount of sleep an adult gets has dwindled by 20% over the last century, which is really bad news for our brains as certain parts literally shut down as we get more tired. I know that without enough sleep, I’m not at my best so this is going to be a focus for me.
- 2. Time away from my phone.
The book suggests trying a phone safe to lock your phone away: I’m not sure that I’ll go as far as that but I’m definitely going to reduce the amount of time I spend on my phone in the hours before bed.
- 3. Planning to focus.
I’m going to make a conscious effort to go through my work, figure out how much time I need to complete a task and then protect that time and remove distractions.
- 4. Balanced eating.
Certain foods can cause a huge and rapid release of energy, during which you might feel really pumped up. These highs don’t last for long and are followed by sudden crashes, when you’ll feel sluggish, and the brain fog creeps in. Now, I love a treat and keep the fridge stocked at work but maybe I need a bit more moderation if I want to focus better and for longer?
There’s plenty for me to work on in just these 4 suggestions and there’s still even more to try in the book and the various podcasts on which Johann Hari features but I’m not going to get distracted by them!
If reading this has made you realise you need to work on improving your attention and focus, why not book a call with us?