Hocus Focus, Part II

POSTED Wed Aug.02.2006 by Dave Seah UNDER Productivity

I recently wrote that I seem to have a lot going on, and remembered that I had written about this before in my post Hocus Focus. At the time it seemed like a pretty insightful post, but looking back on it I’m seeing that it really seemed to deal with symptoms instead of causes.

My ability to focus comes in two sizes: SUPER ULTRA MEGA SIZE and TRIAL SIZE. When I’m on the hunt to discover some fact or root cause I focus very well, to the exclusion of all other stimuli. When I’m not on the hunt, I tend have to result to trickery like the Emergent Task Timer to keep my head in the game. One reason that I seem to keep making more Printable CEO™ forms is because I keep looking for new ways of keeping my mind engaged on the task I’m “supposed” to be doing; it occurs to me that while most people work now to retire later, I’d rather work so I don’t have to focus anymore in my old age, and can pursue my whims wherever they might take me. But I digress…I just had an epiphany about focus that is ludicriously simple:

Focus is Concentrating on One Thought at a Time

I got the idea from a friend of mine, who is writing a paper on the subject of Intuition and Sequential Thinking. One of the things she points out is that our minds seem to have many thoughts running in parallel, but in general only one of them is in the forefront of our conscious minds. My older post on focus was really about the external distractions; this post is about the realization that holding a single thread of thought and action is the internal discipline that I need to develop.

Before, I thought focus was all about character, perserverance, and true grit, and I apparently didn’t have any of the right stuff to pass muster. However, maybe it is just about being a good single-tasker; we already know that multitasking itself isn’t necessarily productive (skip to the section: But Isn’t that Multitasking?). Learning to single-task—FOCUS—naturally follows.

I like it when I can identify two push-pull forces working together:

  • Eliminate external distractions within your immediate vicinity, so you don’t get off on a tangential task

  • Learn to maintain focus on a single thought or task at a time.

Could it be this simple?

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