Only read this if you can commit to incorporating a short period of sustained concentration into your working day today.

How To Concentrate

I notice the poor quality of my concentration most when I am playing with my sons. Even though focusing my attention on say completing a puzzle together is good for them too – children benefit when parents are able to fully concentrate on them – like other parents I also stand to gain from the increasingly rare experience of full absorption in an activity.

I notice the poor quality of my concentration most when I am playing with my sons. Even though focusing my attention on say completing a puzzle together is good for them too – children benefit when parents are able to fully concentrate on them – like other parents I also stand to gain from the increasingly rare experience of full absorption in an activity.

I recently overheard the head of my son’s nursery say, “We train our children to focus their attention fully on what they are doing by creating a clean, organised, light and quiet environment.”

Fresh from coaching the head of innovation at a global car manufacturer it struck me how few environments exist specifically to train our attention. We started off the session with him saying (very typically): “There just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done … it’s so rare that I get to complete anything and even rarer still that I feel it is to the quality I want.”

Completing a puzzle is satisfying because you concentrate, see tangible results and are less likely to get side-tracked as is often the case when say checking social media. In fact, my three-year old is faster at spotting which piece goes where than I am. Perhaps I have become so used to slicing up my attention that I don’t even know what it would be like to concentrate for sustained periods of time.

One very simple area to consider is email. Much is written about it but in simple terms the more often we check it the more attention we waste. The more we check it the more we want to check it. Also, the more we check it the more likely we are to respond or to avoid ‘real’ work by reading unnecessary content.

Now is the time for you to take action.
  • Step 1
    At home, find an activity you and your children enjoy and commit some time to it ideally each day. Turn off all sources of distraction (radio, TV, smartphone)

  • Step 2
    At work, switch off one source of distraction for say 30 minutes a day and use it to make progress on an important activity requiring your sustained concentration (this will be the work, incidentally, least likely to be automated and hence most prized)

  • Step 3
    Take one action that will benefit those you lead to make better use of their own limited sources of concentration e.g. agree response times for internal emails

  • In short
    In short, playtime has lessons for business. Removing distractions at home and at work brings benefits not just to you and your productivity but to the wellbeing of those around you.