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Uncover the lost art of deep focus in our digital age and learn how mastering this skill can elevate your productivity and success.

In a world that increasingly demands, commands, forces, and steals your time and attention, something has been lost. For some, what was lost may never be recovered. Our attention span continues to plummet ever downward. Twenty seconds becomes seven seconds, and then what? A single second.

For some of you this post is already tl;dr (too long; didn't read). If you are still here and willing to read what is long form for many, you may leave here with something worth your time and attention, if I am able to keep it.

If you were born a long time ago, to keep you quiet, your parents placed you in front of the television, which lulled you into a trance. If you were born a bit later, your parents gave you video games. Some of these folks left the basement, only talking to their friends over Skype or PlayStation. If you were born when the internet was mature, you had all of these distractions. And if you were born after the smartphone was invented, your parents handed you a phone or tablet to keep you occupied. These people, and many others, are never more than 12 inches from their phone, and only when you are sleeping and recharging the most intimate relationship in your life.

The constant barrage of notifications, the endless scroll of social media feeds, and the instant access to information and entertainment have created a new challenge for our brains. Our ability to process and retain information is being compromised by the sheer volume and speed at which it's delivered. This digital overload is reshaping our cognitive functions, often to our detriment.

What Was Lost along the Way

As technology has advanced, we’ve lost our ability to focus our attention on one thing for a significant amount of time. Without the ability to focus, work will take longer to complete, and will be of a lesser quality than it might have been, if you had given it your focus and attention.

You may tell yourself you are capable of multitasking, but it isn't true. Instead, you are switching from one task to the next, increasing the time it takes to complete each task. Multitasking is a lie people tell themselves to pretend they are getting more done than others—and more than they actually are. While you avoid giving yourself over to one thing, you will never do the work you are capable of.

While you multitask, things stack up around you. Email. Voicemail. Slack. Text messages. Chat. And other interruptions that steal your focus. If you are not being bothered by the phone, it's the laptop, and if it isn't the laptop, it's another person who wants to steal you away from your work.

The New Competency for Success

When everyone around you is distracted by, well.., by everything and everyone, being focused can give you an edge by helping you get more done in less time. Your work will also be of a greater quality and consequence. What you do and create will look and feel different from others’ work, as they allow themselves to be distracted.

In the past, in the now, and in the future, those who define themselves by their ability to focus will have an advantage over the zombies who distract themselves and others. Your client will appreciate your focus in meetings and the value of your output. Your company will also recognize your work habits and your results, something you do as a practice.

How to Find Your Focus

There are several practical strategies that can make it easier to maintain your focus. First, turn off your smartphone, as it will continue to distract you from your task. Eliminating this bothersome device helps you focus so your output is of higher value. Don’t allow your work to compete with your phone, chirping, beeping, and vibrating its way to your attention. Second, turn off any notifications that show up on your laptop, iPad, or computer. With your notifications turned off, you turn up your focus.

You can make it easier to focus if you tell the people around you that you need privacy to do your best on an important project. You might also put up a sign that you are unavailable for 90 minutes. This brings us to focus blocks.

Using Focus Blocks

Much of the wisdom about time-management practices suggests 90 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to do good work. If you were to block three sessions in a day, you would have used 4.5 hours of your day, leaving you with 3.5 hours for your team, your clients, or helping someone who has waited patiently for your attention.

It may take time to train yourself to focus, but having gained control of your attention, you will find that a task you might have believed would take 90 minutes, may take only 30 minutes or so. Focusing will get more done than multitasking.

Leaving this article, start noticing how often you are interrupted and how often you interrupt others. Make a list of the sources that cause you to lose your focus, then determine how to reduce their impact. Start with electronic sources of distraction before having conversations with potential human interrupters about your need to do focused work.

You have the right to set boundaries that will help you do your best work, while also respecting others’ boundaries. As you start paying attention, you may notice that too few people mind their own boundaries, and others wait eagerly for something or someone more exciting than their work to break through.

You have what you need here to start focusing on whatever is most important to you. This will mean you will not have your phone in front of you while you are talking to someone at work or at the dinner table.

Deep, meaningful, consequential work requires focus. Should you judge your results with your deep work, you’ll find that they are well worth the effort. Leave the transactional tasks for the time between your focus blocks.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 3, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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