“The ability to focus for extended periods of time is now considered one of the most important skills for the 21st century.”

The ability to focus for extended periods of time is now considered one of the most important skills for the 21st century. Many are predicting that in the new economy those that have the ability for deep and reflective focus will be highly sought after and have many doors open up for them. This is exactly why Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “The true scarce commodity of the near future will be human attention.” The statistics support this kind of statement:  

  • A study by “RescueTime” states that the average worker checks their email 55 times throughout the day and is checking social media even more.
  • A Harvard study recently showed that the average knowledge worker spends close to 50% of their day in a state of distraction.

Part of the problem is that the attention grabbing activities are more available than ever before. They surround us and follow us everywhere. Technology now puts all of these wonderful distractions right in our pockets with a device that can show millions of brilliant colors and has more computing power than the first space shuttle. This trend will not change as technology will make the media world around us more and more ubiquitous and an ever present part of our lives.

As humans our brains can actually begin to crave and look for distractions. The attention seeking companies like Facebook and Instagram are actually programming into their devices habit forming and addictive behaviors to keep you coming back. And let’s all just admit that the distractions can be fun and enjoyable so why wouldn’t we engage in them if they are around us and within easy reach at all times.

Which brings us to one of the most important strategies we have for living in this age of distraction. The key to winning the fight is to not fight the fight at all. In most cases if the distraction is in front or near us we will lose the battle, so the key is taking steps to remove the distractions ahead of time. Before you need to focus, the first step you should always take is to remove the distractions. Create for yourself time and space that is distraction free. Take whatever steps you need to put the distractions out of reach for the time needed to focus and complete the task.

It goes without saying that if we should do this for ourselves we should do this for our children as well. It is now imperative that as parents we are intentional in helping our children live in the media saturated world and give them the skills needed to thrive in it. Teaching them to focus is one of those key skills and why this year our theme is “Focus 2020.”

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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