In an interview with Sam Harris, Daniel Goleman states, “As your mind is, your life becomes.’ Goldman talks about screen time as “Luscious seductive distractions.” The early and repeated use of screen time has created an explosion of intellectual, social and emotional deficits (as well as benefits). These deficits have leaked into workplace culture — Checking personal social media accounts, texts, and emails eats up around 32% of the total working hours. In addition, the constant shifts of attention to small, quick bites of information takes a toll on employee’s brains. It contributes to our inability to focus as it takes away the necessary practice of long form attention and concentration. The inability to focus is one area that receives significant attention.
Workplaces need to think about the reality of the new brain. The modern brain does not get enough experiences of movement, play, conflict, independent problem solving, boredom, and practice at regulating its own nervous system. As a result, employees and executives are entering the workplace with brains that may not have the capacity to do some of the tasks. As part one of a series of articles that will help you create a healthy, brain-based workplace, this article will look at single focused activity.
Single Focus Activity
One of the best ways to support focus and concentration is to practice training your brain to avoid distractions. The more we can focus on a single work task for longer periods of time, the better we will be in terms of work efficiency. Single Focus Activity is the ability to focus on one task for long intensive periods of time. Large projects, complex problems and work place conflict all require hearty single focus skills.
What does it mean to have a healthy mind? Higher distractibility and mind-wandering is linked to increased depression. Your ability to focus on one task provides you with more practice at managing your anxiety and anxiousness. It allows you the opportunity to see your thoughts separate from your experience. Becoming aware of your thoughts, background recognition of your circumstance, helps you build the muscle to focus and continue on a problem even when it gets difficult.
Here are four strategies you can incorporate in your workspace:
Make Single Focus Time a Priority. It is worth setting up your work environment so that workers can maximize single focus activity time. Staff should be trained, aware, and supported in the idea that single focused activity time in a work environment is an efficient and useful tool to successfully get work done, utilize your best thinking, and maximize your time efficiency.
Provide professional development to staff so that they can explicitly see the importance of creating blocks of undistracted time. Allow for multiple entry points — some staff will need to start with smaller sections, maybe 20–30 minutes building in to larger chunks of time. Others will find ease in 2 or 3 hours blocks of time.
Set an intended goal for the single focus time. Have a targeted activity in mind. Be specific and communicate the goal to your team, supervisor or another colleague. This will allow you to stay focused on the task and will provide further guidance to keep you on task. The more difficult it is to focus, the shorter and smaller the task should be.
Support staff in finding their best time for work and schedule single focus activity time. Help staff determine their best time for thinking and creativity. For some workers this will be evening and for some this will be early morning. For example, I know that the strongest time for me to focus is in the morning. When I was writing my book, I would use my morning time to work on my book as a single focus activity. I would wake up early and it would be the first task I did in the day. I organized my evening so that everything was prepared for me to start my writing as soon as I woke up. This was some of my most efficient learning time and it was an incredibly productive time. As I worked on editing, the time that was most beneficial for me changed. It became mid-morning and I had to do it in smaller chunks with more breaks. Help your staff find their most efficient single focused activity time and promote the sanctity of that time. Provide closed working spaces with few distractions. Allow staff to block off single focused time with no email or incoming calls or distractions.
By making single focused activity time a priority and embedding into your workplace culture, you are supporting staff at becoming more efficient with their time. You will also allow employees to practice and develop deep thinking skills, which, over time, can benefit workplace culture not just by increased productivity but by increasing employee resilience skills.