The focus problem


I’m juggling a ridiculous amount of projects all at once. It would be hard enough if those were all I was doing. Yet, 75% of each day is actually spent responding to stuff I wasn’t planning on.

This is the Focus Problem. If we’re not focused on something, it won’t get done. Simple as that.

Being interrupted doesn’t help. Research from UC Irvine shows that it takes anywhere between six and twenty minutes to recover and refocus after you are interrupted. Phone calls, emails, instant messaging, dude who drops by my desk to see what’s up while it’s obvious I’m wearing headphones — you aren’t my friends.

In fact, I think focus is the biggest issue we have to deal with as an industry. Imagine how much more we could be getting done for our clients if we could actually get stuff done.

We all feel this, but nobody is actively building work environments that support focus. We build them to encourage interruption. We’re then made to feel irresponsible when we don’t reply immediately to an email or shut off IM.

We compensate by working late hours just to keep up. But this is unsustainable. I love the thrill of working late to get a project just right and out the door. But working late just to keep up with stuff? That’s working stupid.

I have a personal policy to spend the first two hours of every day focused. No emails, no meetings, etc. But it’s constantly being put to the test, because the rest of world doesn’t share the same policy.

But imagine if it did.


  1. I will try the 2h policy for a week or two to see if it helps me. Will let you know how it works out the next time we meet. :)

    • Laura wrote:

      I couldn’t agree more! This adds to the case for telecommuting (which I actually just wrote about on my blog). It’s time we start working differently – smarter – so we can retain our focus and efficiency.