Guest Blog: We all are capable of it, and yet it mostly eludes us – why is focus so hard to come by?

Written by Guest Author, Nishadi Ranasinghe.

The 6pm tube train home from work, what do we see? The busy banker tapping away his next email ready to send when he gets signal, the keen-bean teacher marking her most recent test in her lap, the accountant racking up a personal best on his Candy Crush Saga app, all making the most out of their ‘wasted’ time on their daily commute. Some people may call these people diligent, hard working and passionate, I call them distracted.

In all walks of life, and particularly as a woman, it is often seen as an asset to be able to multi-task. We should all be able to juggle multiple projects at the same time: organise a client meeting in France and the office Spring picnic in Hyde Park, take notes whilst in a financial presentation or even sign off expenses whilst on a call with New York. My question is however, if you are putting fifty percent of your energy into doing two things at once, when are you ever putting a hundred percent on doing one thing properly?

In today’s fast paced world, we are forced to think and do at a hundred miles an hour. It leads us to complete tasks on top of one another. With society becoming more and more about instant gratification, we find ourselves having to tick off our ‘To-Do’ lists right this moment. How many times have you been irritated by your director looking at his phone during a presentation you have spent the night preparing, or finding yourself asking the person who is typing to mute their line on a conference call?

Do those people really have to complete their tasks right away? If so why did they come to the meeting or join the conference call? Is our sense of self importance so great that we really feel that at any one time we must attend and do everything whilst at the same time focussing on nothing?

So what does this ultimately lead to? Did Dan the Director effectively send a relevant response, or whilst not concentrating did he misread and answer a different question completely? Did Tammy the email typist consciously agree to a work item or did she get followed up a week later only to have forgotten it completely?

This week I’ve spent most of my time doing my civic duty as a member of the UK voting public, being sat on my backside in the waiting room of the local crown court. That’s right….Jury Duty. I’ve heard a number of opinions on having to perform this task. My fellow jurors have called it a waste of time, a waste of energy and then there are some who relish the opportunity to just be in one place, performing one task and devoting themselves fully to this task. It’s the one place I have seen focus in practise for long periods of time, whether it be focussing on that book I’ve been meaning to read, or even getting to level 13 of Tetris having never got past level 4 on my commute.

It’s hard to focus on the here and nows, but take the time to engage with the task at hand. Training your mind on one thing will inevitably make it time well spent. When at the gym turn off your phone, when writing a report turn off your email, when on your way home, take a few moments to think about dinner.

Be present in your today and maybe we can all stop worrying about what we aren’t doing and focus on what we are.

 

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