Let’s begin your focus training with a simple self-assessment to measure the duration of your focus.
You can complete this exercise anywhere, so wherever you are right now is more than adequate. We’re simply going to be focusing on the opening and closing of your fists.
To begin, sit up straight and rest one of your wrists onto your knee with your palm facing the ceiling. Which hand and which knee you use doesn’t matter.
Slowly open and close your hand. Begin with your hand open, like you’re accepting money, then curl your fingers into a fist, hold for a second, and return to your starting position with your hand open.
Repeat this movement, and focus on nothing but the opening and closing of your hand for as long as you can manage. Open, close, hold. Open, close, hold. When you feel your focus drift from the task, stop the exercise and we’ll recap below the graphic.
How easy was it for you to hold your attention? How long did you maintain your focus before your mind wandered? Were you able to focus for a number of minutes or only a number of seconds? If your focus didn’t hold for very long, you are not alone. Our minds thirst for information, and in the Digital Age, we’re accustomed to finding that information everywhere, all the time.
For most of us, this means that our attention tends to volley quickly from task to task, instead of zeroing in on what’s in front of us, or what’s important in the present moment. It isn’t that we lack attention. We have no less attention now than in any other modern era. It’s that the duration of our attention has shortened to include a greater number of competing interests.
If we’re to begin controlling our focus in a way that optimizes our performance, we must first learn how to focus intentionally. This starts with building the duration of our focus, and our resistance to distraction—and to be clear, a distraction is considered to be anything that takes our minds off of what we need to be doing right now to achieve our goals.