We are mostly not rising to solve our biggest challenges. Why? Part of the reason, I think, is that when attention breaks down, problem-solving breaks down. …Solving big problems requires the sustained focus of many people over many years. People who can’t focus will be more drawn to simplistic authoritarian solutions—and less likely to see clearly when they fail.
Johann Hari, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – And How to Think Deeply Again
I speak regularly on Current Events for residents at Dallas Area Retirement Communities. This afternoon, my list of items to discuss stands at 14. No, we will not get to all fourteen. But, we should. All 14 are worthy of our serious attention.
And, I printed out my list of fourteen mid-morning. There will likely be an item or two that I should add by the time I speak this afternoon.
In other words, there is something else, something new, something really important, to command our attention all…the…time.
Just think of all the big challenges we face: inflation, the gravitation to remote work to back-to-the-office work to the hybrid work environment; possible recession; consolidation of companies (so many mergers and acquisitions); international problems (Ukraine/Russia), including a potential food shortage crisis that might just be devastating beyond words; climate change; gun violence and mass shootings… just a short list. Oh, and COVID, and Monkeypox, and even a Polio resurgence in London!
And, companies are facing what appear to be talent challenges — finding, and hiring, and keeping good people – at a scale not seen before.
On an individual level, I feel perpetual whiplash. I find it increasingly difficult to focus on the important tasks at hand.
In my work life, I find it hard to identify my current biggest challenge, and keep my focus firmly on that challenge.
And my loss of focus is not just my problem. As the book Stolen Focus by Johann Hari argues, the loss of focus is truly at epidemic proportions. And this loss of focus – this “stolen” focus – has ripple effects that are harmful in so many ways.
And one key way is that big problems are not solved because we cannot keep our focus on the problem at hand.
We need some interventional help with this . And, in my view, that has to start with some serious inner-life work; reading, pondering, and resolve-making, even as we throw in some serious personal habit discipline..
Three books I highly recommend are:
Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Read these three books.
Then, make a serious inventory of your own focus challenges. Where is your attention going? Why are you so easily distractable. (Yes; you are, aren’t you).
Make a list of the absolutely most important one or two problems or challenges you need to tackle.
Focus on them. For extended periods of time. Turn off notifications; lock your phone away in a lock box.
Get to work with deeper focus.
The problems are great. They need your undivided attention.
You…I…have work to do.
And, you can purchase my synopses , with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handouts, along with the audio recordings of my presentations, of these three books by clicking on the links below: