Our ability to focus — or the lack thereof — is a major topic of conversation nowadays. From social media platforms with algorithms specifically designed to keep us scrolling to buzzing phones that hardly leave our sight, there’s so much about our surroundings that makes it hard to truly focus for more than a few minutes. Fortunately, there are a number of books out there discussing the problems and potential solutions surrounding our collective attention deficit.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
“Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way.” In this book, Odell talks about how rarely we do nothing — not listening to a podcast in the background or talking on the phone while grocery shopping, but simply sitting on a bench and taking in our surroundings.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
“Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.” Kahneman discusses how we often make decisions with the fast-moving System 1 of our brains rather than our analytical, methodical System 2, even when we think we’ve carefully thought something through.
Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
“If you see the world through fragments, your empathy often doesn’t kick in, in the way that it does when you engage with something in a sustained, focused way.” I really appreciated how Hari shares his personal struggles with focus and the lengths he goes to try to foster a more present mindset in his own life. This book also dives into the systemic issues causing and exacerbating attention problems, particularly with children in classrooms.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
“Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.” Newport not only helps us think about what an ideal workday would look like for maximum focus, but also how we can incorporate some of his strategies in our everyday lives.
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
“The best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” I finished this book a few weeks ago, but I wish I’d read it years earlier. Csikszentmihalyi provides a gentle yet striking wake up call to readers to stop living on autopilot and pay attention to what they’re paying attention to — and whether shifting that focus could actually lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.
Do you have any recommendations for books about focus? I’d love to know.
Take care xx
Leave a Reply