Focus: Is It a Lost Art?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about our declining ability to focus. The premise of the argument is that we are so bombarded with information and messaging from every direction we’re losing our ability to dig deep.

Since most of this information I’m reading is on the Internet, I figured I better do a little more research to see if I understand what focus really means. So what better way to research than to look it up on the Internet?

Turning to my friend Google, I end up at, and lo and behold, I find there are 12 definitions for the word focus (one of which is “to become focused”—now I’ve always heard you shouldn’t use the word being defined in the definition of the word so maybe I should say 11 definitions).

The point is even the online dictionary seems to support the premise that there is so much information flying around we can’t come to any primary point of focus.

Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon stated it like this: “…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”

So what are we to do with this information? Chase another squirrel?

Since the poverty being created is attention, it would seem the solution lies there. How do we create attention toward the critical items of the day? Some people would say it’s just a five hour energy drink, while others may resort to coffee. So we’re back to the question – Focus: is it a lost art?

I say, no. We find time every day to focus on what’s important to us: our family, the daily necessities, the presentation we have to make tomorrow morning.

The solution to maintaining focus is in the management of our time and our ability to filter out the non-critical information. I will readily admit that this has become a more difficult challenge in the last 10 years (e-mails, blogs, texting, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, tablets, etc.) but it’s not an insurmountable task especially if we are aware that it will take effort on our part to filter the nonessential information out of our day.

You may want to consider a portion of your day set aside for no electronics or no meetings; at that point it becomes a matter of self-discipline or focus. Is that possible? Can it really be a matter of self-discipline?