Losing Focus? How to Win the Attention Battle

Research shows remote working can reap dividends for focused work/ task completion. But now COVID 19 has moved in, we’re mostly working from home – and it’s getting pretty crowded in here! Whether we’re furiously schooling our kids; dancing round our flatmate co-workers, or or stuck on our umpteenth video call, we’re all SUPER-BUSY (getting nowhere…) 

So when life is frantic, how do we stay focused?  Faced with a thousand diversions, how do stop getting distracted, and start making progress? 

Business woman surrounded by Post-it notes

What we know

  • Attention is selective: We direct it consciously (when we choose to focus on something) but to a far greater degree we are training our subconscious on whatever our brain holds important for our survival and well-being.
  • Multi-tasking makes people (up to 40%) less productive and degrades their ability to process information successfully.
  • The average worker is distracted every 3 minutes. Once distracted, it can take us up to 25 minutes to regain focus.
  • Most people can concentrate for no more than 90 minutes before they need to take a 15 minute break.
  • People who practise meditation and mindfulness have better control over their attention resources, and are better at noticing when it’s time for a break.

What we try

Team Focus

Our Hypothesis Your team will find it easier to maintain focus if they can plug in directly to their weekly goals – and feel a positive emotion around them.

The Experiment On Monday, ask each team member to draw how they want to feel by Friday. Then ask them to write down 3 steps to making this picture happen.  Get your team to share their ‘visions’, and display their pictures prominently in their workspace.

Personal Focus 

Our Hypothesis Consciously remind yourself what’s important – and how you want to feel – and you’ll prime your subconscious to focus accordingly.

The Experiment: Every morning ask yourself two questions: “What do I most value today?” and “How do I most want to feel today?” Write down your answers, somewhere you’ll see them as the day unfolds.

Schedule Breaks (and stick to them)

Hypothesis: Breaks need scheduling as much as the work itself. Take the proper break your brain needs, and you’ll stay focused far better when you get ‘back to it’.  

The Experiment: Schedule into your daily calendar a 15 minute break every 90 minutes. When ‘downtime’ arrives, make yourself unavailable; step away from your desk, and do something completely different/ unrelated to work. 

Take a Mindful Minute

Our Hypothesis The practice of mindfulness improves our ability to focus our attention. If we start small enough, and structure it in, then mindfulness can become as natural part of self-care as brushing our teeth.

The Experiment Take a minute of each scheduled break simply to focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, bring it back to focus on your next breath.

Soundtrack Your Work

Hypothesis: music has an impact on how we feel, and can also help neutralise the subconscious’ ability to distract us.

The Experiment: when needing to do focussed work, pick a music soundtrack to work to. Make sure you like the music and that it’s really familiar to you (so as not to give something new to distract your brain).


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