Improve Focus In Yourself And throughout Your Organisation
- Experimental psychologist Donald Broadbent proposed a 'Filter Model of Attention' that I identify with. My simplified understanding is that information streaming to us hits a filter before making its way through to the brain. The filter is there to sort the useful from the rubbish. The implication is that allowing too many simultaneous streams results in "bottleneck" at the filter stage that impedes the overall flow of thoughts. Things are complicated by the fact that the filter can be further stressed by physical extremes or personal bias. A loud person is given more attention than others a sensational headlines grabs our attention and a fool who just sounds credible/confident may be taken seriously. To me the existence of; crying children, headline writers and confidence-tricksters support this point of view. Applying all of this practically is reasonably simple and the following points basically work towards limiting the information we expose ourselves to
- Healthy mind - healthy body. There are many mindfulness based exercise programs that can help with focus and mental toughness.
- Create an environment that promotes focus. Telephones used to be a big problem today we are surrounded all sorts of gadgets that literally streams information that invades our workspace; they need to be controlled. Note: I work in a functional office surrounded by electronic toys. Because of this I don’t put much emphasis on decor. I am however happy to accept that, to some, nice furnishings a few plants an a nice view are important. My view is anything that cuts down on the everyday ‘noise’ that surrounds us will help our focus and concentration and attention span.
- Know what you are supposed to be focusing on. Too much time is wasted on irrelevancies. Having a clear view of what is important helps us to decide where our focus is needed. I find Setting goals is a great place to start. I try to keep daily, weekly, monthly, annual and five year plans. They are ‘living’ documents updated regularly and close at hand. As I write I realise that I was much more diligent in this when I was younger. Maybe with age long-term plans are less important (thoughts for another page).
- Create good habits/routines. It's so simple systematise all the boring stuff so you have more time for the fun stuff.
- Understand that the mind can only focus on one thing in short bursts. Its impossible to work full-on for extended periods.
- Accept when you are tired. All speakers, teachers and lecturers are aware of research suggesting that the maximum attention span for learners is 20 minutes. Some think that this can be as low as 5 minutes. Whatever the case being tired in this sense is not about falling asleep, it’s about recognising that the longer we concentrate on something the worse our concentration becomes. Simply standing up can give us the break we need to reestablish our connection with our work.
- Use headphones and listen to music. Headphones form a physical barrier and the music (according to some recent research) makes us more responsive to other stimuli.