In today’s world our ability to focus is constantly being diminished by external forces. According to award-winning author Johann Hari, the causes range from our devices, email and social media to even the air we breathe. The impacts, he says, creep into every part of our lives, from home to the office.
“The average office worker is only able to focus on one task for less than three minutes,” says Hari, bestselling author of “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again” (Crown), one of Amazon’s best books of 2022.
“Evidence is very clear that when your ability to focus and pay attention deteriorates, your ability to solve problems and achieve goals deteriorates, too.”
Finding Meaning in Work to Reclaim Stolen Focus
In “Stolen Focus,” Hari, a gifted storyteller, describes his journey around the world, interviewing leading experts on attention and focus – and the surprising explanations he discovered.
“I learned there is scientific evidence for 12 factors that can make your attention better or worse, and the factors that can make your attention worse have been hugely rising in recent years,” reveals Hari, who joined Oprah Winfrey for a two-part conversation about focus and attention. “There’s a really broad range of factors: the food we eat, the way our offices work and the way our kids’ schools work are all negatively affecting our attention.”
While leaders may encourage multitasking and some workers take pride in their ability to do so, he says productivity through multitasking is a myth. In fact, Hari points out that through his interviews with experts, he learned that people who think they’re good at multitasking are actually worse at juggling many tasks at once.
One of the solutions for regaining attention at work is for employees to feel connected to the meaning in their work.
“Attention is deeply connected to meaning. One of the reasons people find it hard to focus at work is because they’ve become disconnected from the meaning in their work,” explains Hari, who received Porchlight Books’ 2022 Business Book of the Year honors. “The more an employee can connect with the meaning of their work, the better their attention will be for that work.”
A Deeply Personal Journey to Understand Some of Society’s Biggest Challenges
“Stolen Focus” is Hari’s third in-depth analysis into some of the most pressing issues facing society. His first book, 2015’s “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” (Bloomsbury USA) was adapted into the 2021 Academy Award-nominated film “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”. His charisma shines through in the book’s companion TED Talk.
Hari also takes a deep dive into the crucial topic of anxiety and depression head-on in “Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions” (Bloomsbury USA, 2018), which was described by the British Journal of General Practice as “one of the most important texts of recent years,” and shortlisted for an award by the British Medical Association. He returned to the TED stage in 2019 with a gripping presentation on anxiety and depression.
Hari’s immersive journeys into complex topics are rooted in a desire to deeply understand some of society’s toughest, and most widespread, challenges to uncover truths that many can relate to.
“I do journalistic work where I investigate things that are really important,” explains Hari, whose TED Talks have been viewed nearly 100 million times across platforms. “I try to find practical solutions to problems that are really important to me and really important to huge numbers of people.”
In a world dominated by constant notifications and distractions, understanding the dynamics of focus and attention is key to organizational success. Stern Strategy Group connects you with renowned thought leaders whose insights, strategies and management frameworks help organizations fuel growth and disruptive innovation to better compete in a constantly changing world. Let us arrange for these esteemed experts to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting sessions, workshops and keynotes.