(Re-)Train your focus by doing things differently

von Marion Ehmann

Feeling distracted and unfocused? This summer I´d like to invite you to (re-)train your focus by doing familiar things differently. Among the benefits are the ability to concentrate better and an increased awareness of the information all around you. And you might even improve your work processes in the bargain.

Our ability to focus, to pay attention seems to be declining. We are continually distracted by tsunami waves of e-mail and social media, always at our fingertips, just a few thumbprints or swipes away. Most of us have developed some habits for coping with this flood– merely reading e-mails´s headings, sorting them by filter rules or only skimming through them are some examples that I hear from my coaching clients. But what is this costing us? Information is eating attention for breakfast, lunch and dinner or, in the words of Nobel laureate and economist Herbert Simon: “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”.

Daniel Goleman in his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence describes two rather separate mental systems that apply two different types of attention: The bottom-up system is involuntary, intuitive and impulsive; it is the filter for most incoming information and the executor of our habits, such as e.g. routinely checking our e-mails and social media. The top-down system, on the other hand, is voluntary and this is the place where careful analysis as well as learning and solution-finding happen. The bottom-up system multitasks, while the top-down system analyses thoughtfully ...

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