Want to Succeed? Learn How to Focus

Today I listened to a podcast on which the guest talked about her research on focus. The gist was that it’s getting hard for people to focus for more than one minute (yes, one minute!) while we’re working because of all the distractions we’re inundated with. That one-minute figure was based on a study she’d done over a few years. I knew focus was a problem, but the one-minute stat was surprising.

My college had a Center for Academic Success. Sadly, most students never used it. Honestly, I don’t think many people even knew it existed. Serendipitously, I met the center’s director my first semester, and she impressed me. I told her about my heavy course load that semester, and she urged me to visit her center. When I took her up on her offer, I learned study techniques that proved invaluable. A lot of it was about habits that help you focus. I’ve always been able to focus on things I’m interested in, but the things I learned at that center turbocharged my ability and taught me how to focus on things that are less interesting to me (which a lot of early college classes were).

My ability to focus has played a big part in the wins I’ve had in life. Learning techniques for focusing and practicing them took my natural abilities and habits to the next level. As I think about the one-minute attention statistic, I’m concerned about people’s diminishing ability to focus. If you’re aiming for outsize success, focus is something to consider learning about (just as you would any other critical topic) and practicing so you can develop or enhance your ability to focus. Being able to focus won’t guarantee you outsize success, but not being able to all but guarantees you won’t achieve success.