Attention and focus are important skills in today’s fast-paced world. Unfortunately, many people struggle with what is known as “monkey brain” or “monkey mind”—a term that refers to the constant jumping of thoughts from one thing to another. And the plethora of potential distractions in our world today don’t exactly help the cause.
The good news is that attention and focus can be strengthened with practice. In this week’s episode of In the Details, Curt Steinhorst, the head of people at Venus Aerospace, co-author of Can I Have Your Attention? and founder and CEO of Focuswise, shares his insights and tips with host Karen Allen on how to improve our focus and attention.
Steinhorst explains that focus is not just about being efficient or managing time, but focusing on what matters. “There’s a landmark study in a big book in the early 90s called Flow by Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. What they found—they were studying the emotional state of people in various activities. And they found that people were happier, in a better mental health position, when they’re in a state of focused work than when they’re watching TV,” he says in the episode.
He also highlights the importance of connecting meaning to tasks. He offers several techniques to increase focus and stresses the importance of normalizing not feeling guilty or ashamed if focusing is a challenge. Focus is a muscle that must be strengthened over time.
To balance deep work with other demands, such as personal life, Steinhorst advises being intentional about your time and creating a schedule that works for you. He suggests identifying your “nonnegotiables”—things that you will not compromise on—and building your schedule around them. Ultimately, by being intentional about our time and finding our flow zone, we can begin to achieve a state of focused work.
- Can I Have Your Attention? by Curt Steinhorst and Jonathan McKee
- Deep Work podcast episode with Jenny Blake and Cal Newport
- Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Curt Steinhorst is the Head of People at Venus Aerospace, co-author of Can I Have Your Attention? and founder of Focuswise. Follow Steinhorst on LinkedIn and Instagram, and watch his TEDx Talk, “How to Like Work Again… No, Seriously.” His website is www.curtsteinhorst.com.
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