Wealth of information = poverty of attention


You know what it’s like. Full email inbox. The ping of a text. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram. All firing off (possibly) useful – yet distracting – information. You check one thing, and before you know it half an hour, or more, has disappeared and you can’t even remember what it is you were checking.

We are living in the information age, and, whew, it can be overwhelming. And, worse still, it can stop us from achieving our goals. At times, it can feel like we’re struggling to drive up a long, steep hill. We’re in top gear and the motor just can’t get us there. We need to change down a gear or two, give the motor more torq, and it will get up that hill, albeit a bit slower. It can be like that with life. We struggle to stay in top gear, expecting so much of ourselves, of others, of life itself. Sometimes to do more, we need to do less: change down a gear. Slow it down, reduce the load, and get to where you want to go. And if we do this, not only will we get to where we want to go, we will also make wiser decisions – at work and at home. This is not just tree-hugging, hippy stuff. There is a wealth of evidence that says focus and mindfulness improves well-being, physical health and mental health - see Harvard and others. Daniel Goleman, an internationally reknowned psychologist, notes “Our focus matters immensely in everything we do: the better we can pay attention, the more excellent the results – in everything from learning to leadership. And, I’d add, love”. If leadership and success are part of your plan, then you need to work out how to focus on focus. Here are my top tips for creating this space - the MESO strategy for focus:

  • Meditate. There are some great apps and podcasts. My favourite is Smiling Mind. There are programs for children and adults and guided meditations from one minute to an hour. You can also set a reminder. One client uses it in the car while waiting to pick up kids. I use meditations to fall asleep at night, however they are also a great start to the day.

  • Effective email management – unsubscribe from email lists you never read (not this one, if you have got this far!); set up rules so emails from lists go straight to a “read later” folder; delete mercilessly; don’t send professional emails after hours unless absolutely urgent (if you really need to, save them in drafts and send in the morning or set up an auto-send for the morning).

  • Switch off – even for a short period of time. Schools are doing it with excellent results. I put my phone on airplane mode whenever I can, including overnight, so I don’t get woken to a ping. Try the phone stack challenge when out for dinner with friends (maybe even try the phone stack challenge in business meetings!).

  • Open space in your diary. I have a regular “no plans” month. During this month I tell friends, family, and, as much as I can get away with it, clients and colleagues, that I am not booking things in. I also have weekly “do nothing” calendar appointment that goes for two hours. The openness of my calendar helps to open my mind to new ideas and gives me time to reflect.

What could you be doing to create more focus for you, your team or your organisation? Try some of these out, or let me know what you do to build focus. I'd love to hear from you.

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