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a mediation on focus

fo•cus |ˈfōkəs|
noun ( pl. fo•cus•es or fo•ci |ˈfōˌsī; -ˌkī|)

1 the center of interest or activity
• an act of concentrating interest or activity on something
( focus on) pay particular attention to
• [ trans. ] concentrate

today we are constantly barraged with information, things to do, see, read, discover, explore. the internet is both a blessing and a curse…as is the smartphone.

we are curious creatures, so often, for many of us, looking online means getting lost for hours surfing the web and clicking through interesting links that barely pertain to our original search goal. many of us can’t quickly check e-mail, and forget how much time passes when facebook is involved.


sometimes we need to be on the computer to work, for example writers often type directly into the computer (though a few still handwrite their ideas first). for many simply being on the computer becomes a distraction as the desire to “go online” can overwhelm, causing poor concentration on the project at hand. yet, a quick break online is never quick and for some the time lost can equal money lost. this is a growing problem in the corporate world where employee productivity is decreasing due to the distraction of going online.

as a result, many companies have taken on the role of big brother to scan employee computers to track their web surfing trail or to completely block any sites deemed unnecessary.

recently, software has been created to prevent users from going online for a set amount of time so they can get work done. many people who find themselves unable to keep the impending distraction of the internet at bay, spend money to buy software that will help them do it.

we are so busy multitasking we don’t realize we are getting very little done, and what we are doing is not being done well. in fact, “many researchers believe the human brain can’t really perform two or more tasks simultaneously, as the word multitask implies.”

“In a study published a decade ago, Meyer and his colleagues found that, contrary to popular belief, people are less efficient—not more—when they multitask. That’s because it takes more time to complete one of the tasks, especially as they become more complex, versus focusing on a single task.”

staying in the moment, being present with the task at hand (even if the other one is less challenging or more interesting) and following it through to the end — sounds like a simple, achievable goal. yet for many these days it is not, we are often in the middle of a few projects, reading multiple blogs, and “participating in several “conversations” at once via text, IM, Facebook, etc — we are doing much but completing little.  we have lost sight of the important role focus plays in productivity. we are also increasing our own stress by attempting to accomplish anything is such a scattered and frenetic state.

it’s time to take a moment, take a breath and step back. we need to learn again how to focus, to concentrate on one thing at a time so we can get it done…and well.

there are so many ways to help you get your focus back – taking screen holidays is a good one (try going “off the grid” for a weekend and you will feel refreshed as if you had taken an actual vacation!), using timers when online, or using a checklist. Getting more exercise into your routine can help you achieve balance and feel more focused as well.

one great way to achieve balance and learn to focus is through the practice of yoga and meditation. in yoga, one strives to develop ekagrata, which is defined as a focused or “one pointed” awareness or concentration, the ability to focus the mind on an object without distraction for extended periods of time.


what is your biggest distraction? do you lose hours when you go online? what do you do to help yourself stay focused?