It is easy to become disconnected in a world filled with distractions—but leaders need to be able to meet others at the moment.
- Stress and focus have become two of the most important issues plaguing the business world—with employee burnout, quiet quitting, and the great resignation thinning the workforce and upsetting the status quo.
- According to a recent study by University of California Irvine Professor Gloria Mark, the average attention span has decreased in the past 20 years from two and a half minutes to 47 seconds. It can take 25 minutes and 26 seconds on average to regain attention.
- Smartphone addiction creates focus issues, with the average user checking their phone 85 times daily and interrupting concentration with the people and projects around users.
- Learning to be more attentive in the moment is a vital solution to quieting the distractions surrounding leaders in the challenges they must overcome on a daily basis.
Why It’s Important
In a world full of pandemics, national tragedies, and daily stress, it becomes easy to lose attention and let important things in the moment fall out of focus. Whether we are facing personal trials, family issues, daily stress, or health issues, it is easy to become disconnected from others.
This is more true for leaders, who have a greater responsibility to stay on schedule, meet deadlines, and keep colleagues moving in the right direction. Leaders are called to take charge of those they are responsible for, and letting small distractions take us out of the moment can be damaging.
“There is a spacial sense that you can be with your family or colleagues, but there is also a relational presence where I am here in the room with you, and my attention, focus, and conversation are here with you. It is possible to be present without being fully engaged. Smartphones complicate that because we constantly have distractions and pings drawing our attention, but this has always been an issue,” says Pastor Kenny Silva.
Backing Up A Bit
Kenny Silva is the pastor of Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. In addition to his pastoral work, he’s spent the last decade working on leadership development and contributed to several books, including How To Be Present In an Absent World: A Leader’s Guide To Showing Up, Paying Attention, And Becoming Fully Human—which he co-wrote alongside Sojourn Community Church founding pastor Daniel Montgomery and psychologist Eboni Webb.
Montgomery, Webb, and Silva drew upon contemporary scientific research into the effects of space, effectiveness at work, and the dangers of loneliness and synthesized it with his background in theology, creating a book that draws upon managerial principles, leadership development practices, faith, and science to speak to the issue of presence.
“As far back as the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, we’ve understood that grace restores and perfects human nature. We are created with bodies, created for relationships, and created to move in particular groups and spaces as finite and temporal beings with a specific relationship to time. If you reject your body—sleep, exercise, connections, positive healthy spaces—you’ll experience spiritual consequences,” says Silva.
There is no singular solution to addressing the issue of attentiveness. The daily practice of retraining the brain on focusing is vital, but addressing the underlying causes can be subjective to each leader’s individual experiences. It might mean locking up a smartphone to prevent it from distracting or turning off non-essential notifications. It might mean changing eating or sleeping habits to operate more effectively. Meditation or listening to classical music are both effective ways to increase focus.
As entrepreneur Armand Peri writes, turning down the noise of daily life can allow us to focus on solutions. “Our mindset, self-care, and intentional relaxation can get us through just about anything,” he says.
It might even mean seeking medical assistance. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, brain fog has been a commonly reported side effect of the disease for those who contracted it. As the Cleveland Health Clinic notes, brain fog can be caused by stress, exhaustion, hunger, pregnancy, food sensitivity, and underlying autoimmune conditions and may need medical intervention to address. A debilitating lack of focus may require specific treatments.