How much damage does your lack of focus actually do?

Door Patrick Verheij

“Where focus goes, energy flows” says Anthony Robbins in many of his inspiring talks. And next to him, just about any leadership expert shares the same opinion.\r\n\r\n

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\r\n\r\nIn Buddhism, focus is a key element: the power of living in the present moment. It’s the ultimate buddhahood. Buddha taught it and all his followers teach it all the time.\r\n\r\nFocus is one of the five Scrum values, even though you will not find them in the Scrum Guide. Focus will boost our productivity like nothing else does.\r\n\r\nWe probably all know the power of focus. Nevertheless, it is easily ignored. Eckhart Tolle explains it nicely in this short video, stating that we are addicted to the future.\r\n\r\nAren’t we?\r\n\r\nIt seems that our mind is often somewhere else than where we are now. We drift away from the present moment while our mind tries to find the next thing. The next thing to pay attention to. And then the next. Always one step ahead or even miles into the future, dreaming of what could be.\r\n\r\nEspecially in meetings. Whenever we are in a meeting we see people staring at their laptop or tablet. Others are fumbling their phones. A quick glance uncovers that these people are reading their e-mail, even responding to them. Some are working on excel spreadsheets or perfecting their presentation slides. Most are scrolling down their whatsapp messages though.\r\n\r\nEverybody is half-present. Or “distracted”, whatever you want.\r\n\r\nNot so long ago (although it seems ages), people seemed a bit ashamed when doing such things in the middle of a meeting. Nowadays they aren’t. Everybody is doing it. And so are we.\r\n\r\nWho cares about the boring meeting anyway? It’s a weekly thing and there wasn’t an agenda. The others are just chatting away at things we don’t really care about.\r\n\r\nWait, wait, wait! We DO care! Just…not enough. We care more about our messages. And even when those messages aren’t in our inbox yet, we keep checking. just in case. Just in case the next one arrives. We shouldn’t miss that one!\r\n\r\nBut it’s not just in meetings. The Phone is always on. Just in case. Even when we talk to another person. It only takes a slight vibration or a soft “bling” to becoming deaf to anything the other person says. We can then only think of the message that has just arrived. Eager to see it, we pop out the phone and glance at the screen. An the other person? Either she rambles on or she feels a bit awkward while trying to regain our attention. But hey…that message! Couldn’t miss that of course. She’d understand that.\r\n\r\nThese days I am in no meetings anymore where everybody is focused all the time. None. Zilch. Zero. Nada. I see more teenagers riding a bicycle without a phone than meetings where people pay attention. Only slightly, but more nonetheless. Few against zero.\r\n\r\nAnd why the heck do I care writing this anyway? Why do I bother you with a bunch of links to videos of old guys mumbling about focus, presence and consciousness? Why do I put a long text in your face stating the obvious?\r\n\r\nWell…because I am “that guy” too. And it hurts. It hurts me and it hurts people around me.\r\n\r\nIt hurts me because I often feel tired after staring at my iPad or phone for a while. It hurts me because checking messages gives me an excuse to sit out a meeting where I don’t belong to be. Or it gives me an excuse not to improve a meeting where I do belong but where something isn’t right. And that’s hurting others too because by not acting, I deprive them of experiencing something better.\r\n\r\nHow many times have you been in a meeting, in a conversation, or in any place where you’d rather not be? You were there but you weren’t there at the same time. You weren’t present.\r\n\r\nYou weren’t present in that weekly meeting. And while having a morning chat with that colleague you’d rather not talk to. And doing the work you’d rather not do. And while being with some kids you’d rather not be. Your kids. And talking to your spouse while being tired. And also while having sex without yet having properly prepared tomorrow’s presentation.\r\n\r\nAlways focused. Oh yes, we are. But on the next thing. The seemingly more urgent, but much less important thing. Damaging everything as we go.\r\n\r\nSeth Godin posted an important article on his blog. Please read it if you have kids. It changed me because for me his message came at exactly the right time. As his messages always seem to magically do. That’s why I love that guy.\r\n\r\nFocus on the now and be Buddha instantly. That’s what the Buddhists say and I believe it. They also say that it requires a lot of practice and boy, it does!\r\n\r\nBetter start now or else I picture us trying to make a selfie while on our death beds. We put our loved ones on hold while trying to get that one last picture along with a funny quote on our Facebook timeline before we leave this world. Then everyone we care about so much can witness that special moment.\r\n\r\nThe moment in which we neglected what we could have cared about most.\r\n\r\n

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Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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