Focus, Focus, … SQUIRREL!

I’ve just started listening to the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, and it’s hitting a little too close to home.

The premise is a simple one that we’ve all heard before: out constant inundation with social media, email, online news, online …. well online everything, is causing what I’ll call a “crisis of attention span”.

We’re losing the ability to focus for longer periods of time.

As I said, it’s hitting a little too close to home. As in, I’m very guilty and feel it … even just getting around to doing the things I want to get done today.

The premise is also that focused, deep work, is important; critical to success even. And that we need to keep exercising that ability or we risk losing it, permanently.

It’s fascinating in a way, because I can absolutely recall recent times when I’ve been so focused on a task at hand that time just flies by with little notice. It’s the classic definition of “flow”.

And yet I can, perhaps even more readily, recall times where “just a quick check of email” results in an hours-long distraction that starts with a message, then the need to act on that message, then a “well, while I’m doing this I might as well check Facebook” kind of vortex that ends up in anything but productive time.

The book starts by outlining some extremes that a few notables have gone to, to provide themselves that focus by controlling their environment, starting with Carl Jung who evidently built himself a tower of some sort into which he could retreat to do his deepest think work.

I hope to be able to do something less extreme.