International Keynote Speaker Duncan Stevens

How To Improve Our Ability To Focus

How To Improve Our Ability To Focus

Focus is the key that unlocks our ability to achieve greatness, both personally and professionally. It is the unwavering commitment to a goal, the dedication to our craft, and the unwavering attention to detail that sets us apart. When we focus, we tap into our inner reservoirs of creativity, productivity, and innovation. It is in those moments of deep concentration that we can truly make an impact

Why Focus Is More Important Now Than Ever

In our fast-paced society, where multitasking is often praised, we must resist the temptation to spread ourselves too thin. Instead, we should embrace the power of singularity—the power of directing our attention and energy towards one task at a time. By doing so, we unlock a level of efficiency and quality that is simply unattainable when our attention is divided.

Unfortunately Focus in the world is reducing more and more every year and in fact, our natural attention is thought to have dropped from an average of 12 seconds in the 1970s to around 8 seconds today. To put it in perspective, goldfish have a natural attention span of just 9 seconds so our average attention span has dropped to below a goldfish. So concentration is a crucial element when we’re thinking about attention and focus. Simply put, focus is sustained attention over a long period of time and can also be referred to as focused attention.

Now For Some Science

There have been many studies around the world that explore how concentration is achieved, and the limits of it and what’s apparent is that concentration levels are different for everyone and they’re predominantly sustained through our own personal interest, but not only that, it’s how much we desire the end result. The greater we desire something or the end result, the more likely we are to have higher levels of concentration and therefore focus. As I just mentioned our ability to retain sustained levels of focus have significantly dropped especially since the advent of social media. We’re constantly bombarded with more and more choice and messages, particularly on online. When you look at everything at once, and your attentional filter is trying to let everything through, it becomes harder than ever to focus your attention on just one thing and as a result, our attention or focus has declined to the lows I just mentioned of just 8 seconds.

To put this in perspective with a few statistics; we watch four hours of TV per day, which equates to about 40 adverts per hour which is about 130 adverts in total. Let’s say we have 10 email adverts received per day then it wouldn’t be a stretch to say we might have 270 adverts pop up in every online shop in a grocery store. When you put it all together, we’re looking at about two and a half thousand adverts per day and nearly 16,000 – 17,000 per week. Over the weekend, this goes up even more as we shop in our malls, visit the petrol station or gas station or take more journeys out.

Let’s say for example, the average journey time is about two hours, we might pass two adverts per minute or we might listen to two adverts per minute on the radio. Even when we’re doing some work or cooking cleaning, that’s 30 minutes of radio per day, that’s 40 adverts per hour. So you might be looking at even more adverts that need to be filtered out through our attentional filter every day, per weekend.

Can You Focus On More Than 1 Thing At Once?

We cannot focus on many things at once but when we do focus on one thing and give ourselves a timeframe to do spend on this particular task or activity we can be extremely productive in our life. Being more productive, allows us to get more done in a shorter frame of time which then allows us to spend more time enjoying things we love to do with the people we love to spend time with. So pay attention to where or what is drawing your focus. if you’re spending too much time giving attention to the things which you don’t need to then they’re not the things you should be doing.

With this introduction you may be asking why is focus so important. Well I genuinely believe that sustained levels of Attention or focus is the key to high performance in a world of endless distractions.

Whenever you don’t check your email or phone for a while, do you find yourself fighting a remarkably strong urge to drop whatever you’re doing and take a peek? And if you do give in to the urge, do you feel somehow unsatisfied if there are no new messages waiting for you?

With all of the stats I mentioned earlier – it’s apparent to see that We live in distracting times. The constant urge to respond to the overwhelming amount of information and stimuli in our environment leads us to a state of continuous partial attention in which we leap carelessly from one thing to another, from our phones to our email to Facebook and in doing so weaken our ability to select what we pay attention to.

However, it is possible for us to focus, even when we’re surrounded by activity and stimuli. What we need is strong selective attention. Indeed, the stronger our ability to select what we focus on, the better we are at ignoring potential distractions.

For example, journalists in an open-plan office at the New York Times manage to focus on their work and meet deadlines despite being surrounded by noise and other distractions. None of these journalists ever demand quiet so they can concentrate better.

But not everyone’s selective attention is as strong. Most of us tend to daydream while we’re at work or distract ourselves with other time-wasting activities. For that reason, it’s crucial to increase our selective attention so we can ignore external distractions and accomplish our tasks.

However, the distractions that engulf us not only threaten to waste our time and reduce our productivity, they also diminish our ability to immerse ourselves in a subject, reducing our chances of reaching a state of flow and thus learning and discovering new things. In fact, this issue is so prominent that internet addiction among young people has already been identified as a national health problem in many Asian countries.

So if we can develop our ability to ignore distractions and focus well, we can help to increase our performance, and enable ourselves to have more profound reflections and deeper insights.

More About Duncan Stevens

Duncan Stevens is one of the worlds leading high-performance coaches and keynote speakers. He helps teams and leaders cultivate a mindset for success using his background on behavioural psychology and over a decade in helping teams and leaders positively impact their bottom line. He is a best-selling author, successful entrepreneur and has spoken around the world in over 40 different countries. 

To learn more about Duncan, check his availability or to explore his speaking topics and how he can add value to your event with his inspiring, educational and entertaining approach to his keynotes then get in touch with Duncan or a member of his team below.