Be where you are right now

Fostering sustained focus may be the key to productivity and happiness

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I often find myself in one place when i would rather be in another. In this situations my instinct is to ‘escape’ psychologically — this may be through daydreaming, trying to think about other things or through connecting to my phone and browsing the internet.

However, after reading Cal Newport’s “Deep Work”, in which he makes the case for fostering the ability to sustain focus, I have made a conscious effort to change this and found great benefits.

Now, when I am in one of these situations (a boring lecture or meeting, eating dinner by myself, etc), I ask myself the following question:

Is it possible, and beneficial, to leave now and do something else?
If the answer is no, I will commit to making the most of the current situation.

To do this, I will force myself to take a step back and objectively consider the situation from another angle. For example, in a boring lecture I may ask myself “what about this lecture is boring? what could be changed? If I had the opporunity to give feedback to the lecturer what would I say? How would I phrase it?”, etc.

In doing so, I ensure that I am still engaged in my current activity, but make it more interesting by engaging at a higher level.

Everything that you experience, no matter how boring it may feel, is a learning opportunity.

There is also an immense benefit from developing the ability to sustain focus, which translates to all areas of your life.

‘Deep’ happiness has often been considered as a sustained focus directed towards achieving your goals (Aristotle talks about ‘Eudaimonia’) and it may be that developing the ability for sustained focus is one of the keys to finding both success and fulfillment.

Data Scientist + Junior Doctor in London, Cambridge medicine grad, striving to improve healthcare through technology and education.

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