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Can We Focus Too Much?


Focus is a wonderful thing. It can ensure we work effectively and quickly. It is often described as "being in the zone" when the difficult becomes easy and the big jobs become rudimentary. But research has shown us that too much focus can be a problem. It drains your brain of energy, makes you care less about people and prevents you seeing what is happening around you.

The adverse effects are not always easy to identify, so below are three of them:

  1. Not having as much energy as usual. If you get tired too often, or more often than normal, this may be a sign that the brain is tired. It could be a sign of too much internal focus (for example focusing on your arm movement in your golf swing too much, which often results in your golf swing getting worse!) The solution? Build some "unfocus" time into your day (go for a walk, take a nap - secretly!) or simply getting our into your workplace and talking to someone for 15 minutes. Or, if you are a golfer, using some external focus - for example visualising your ball going straight down the fairway

  2. Not operating at your peak. Focus alone is not sufficient for leaders to perform at their best. We have to manage our brains' energy demands, making sure we time our periods of intense focus when our brains are best able to deal with it. You all know this - 2 hours after we wake up, for another 2 hours our brain is at its "most focusable" - make sure you do your most difficult and challenging tasks at this time, not being reactive to emails which just wastes that energy

  3. Feeling easily overwhelmed. It has been shown that 2.5% of the population can multitask! The other 97.5% of us can easily get into overwhelm if we try to do too many things at once. And too much focus can make that even worse. It can reduce the very mental flexibility that is essential if we try to do more than one thing at once. I haven't met anyone that doesn't try to multitask from time to time. It can be deemed to be essential at times, even though the concept can be looked upon as a myth! So when we feel we do need to multitask (even though its a myth - sorry I don't want to confuse) too much focus will surely result in failure to do anything. The solution is not to focus too long - to ensure you have unfocused periods and that they are regular and effective

Be well, stay focused, but not too long!

Cheers

Phil Pickford

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