Trying to focus for long time periods is not necessarily the key to productivity

Lack of focus is one of the biggest post-pandemic issues we are now facing according to Lynda Gratton at London Business School.

At NEP we would argue this has always been a problem, and we agree it has definitely been exacerbated during the pandemic.

And people often get hung up with feeling like they need to focus for longer periods of time. But that’s not really the issue as optimal focus time is different for everyone.

It’s the intensity of the focus that matters

Even pre-pandemic, the average person would receive 150 notifications each day. Yikes!

Thanks to the multitude of additional communication platforms now being used by business, and of course other interruptions than can occur when working from anywhere, the number of notifications per day has significantly ballooned.

This has disastrous implications for productivity.

And to make matters worse, we actually think that this multi-tasking is making us more productive.

Be honest, how often have you been passively listening to a meeting and thought you were being productive by responding to a few emails at the same time?

Feels productive right? Neuroscience suggests not so much.

How you reduce notifications is up to you – we have many ways to help you with this at NEP so please reach out if you need further help with this.

Optimal focus time is different for everyone – longer isn’t necessarily better

While neuroscience suggests that the average natural attention span is around 45 minutes, no two brains are the same which means that this average is made up of some people with shorter than average attention span, while others have a longer than average attention span.

One is not necessarily better; it’s the intensity of the focus that matters while you are operating at whatever focus time is natural for you.

For example, someone who has a natural attention span of say 20-30 minutes, who focuses intensely without distraction for that amount of time, will be way more productive than someone of a similar optimal focus time who tries to focus for an hour, and keeps getting lured into the notification trap and therefore will have less intensity of focus.

So what is your optimal focus time?

Some people may know this intuitively, but many people haven’t thought about it. Which is fair enough when old school ways of thinking suggested that focusing for longer was always more productive. Let’s face it, many of us were taught that homework is something that you do until it’s done.

As someone with a short attention span, I used to bounce around between subjects and that always helped break up my focus. Doing my Masters also required me to break up the work into smaller chunks for best results.

Most people have never been made aware of their optimal focus time, therefore when they try to structure their days for optimal energy and performance, they are basically flying blind. Things take more cognitive energy than they should and that usually equates to things taking more time than they should.

When you know your optimal focus time (thanks to the Pace Indicators that NEP use), and you increase the intensity of your focus within that time, life feels much easier. Further, your productivity and sense of achievement will sky-rocket and surely that can only be a good thing.

If you and your team are interested in working more intensely at their optimal focus time, please contact us to book your 45 minute complimentary Performance Call.

If you are interested for your own benefit, why not join us at our next live online workshop series…… or book your 15 minute call to see if 1:1 coaching might be right for you.

Or if self-paced study is more your thing, why not head to next evolution energy and sign up to “The Neuroscience of getting more done” course.