Boosters : Future Skills – Focus

Nail this and you have one of the most wanted skills in the ‘future of work’.

As predictions and commentary on the future of work, working lives and work places continues, so too do the predictions of the skills that us humans will need to be bringing to the workplace in order for robots and humans to complement each other.

Previously, the top three were regularly cited as critical thinking, critical judgement and fluency of ideas but ‘focus’ is creeping up the list.

With reports suggesting that the average adult will stop watching television after just seven minutes (usually to look at their phone) and in work, attention wanes after 13 minutes in a face to face meeting and just seven minutes on a conference call, it is no surprise that a desire for people with an ability to focus is on the increase.

Yet the distractions are numerous. As I’m typing this on my PC, I have three mobile phones and an ipad in my line of sight. Blinking lights, beeps, on screen pop up messages, not to mention the ‘reminders’ going off in my brain (must buy tea bags).

We pride ourselves on multi-tasking, always on, being busy… but the reality is often that we try to do too much and don’t do some of it all that well. But before we get too hard on ourselves, let’s remember that in part, this is how we are to be. Our brains are always on the look out for danger, always horizon scanning and ‘checking in’ with our environment so it’s no wonder we oblige it.

It’s when we think that distraction may be taking over and impacting our performance that it can be helpful to put some tips and tricks into place. Try setting a timer before you start a piece of work or a task and give yourself permission to defer all other distractions until the time is up. If you find this difficult, notice what pops into your head when you are working, scribble it down then leave it until the time is up. Afterwards, review what came up for you and what you need to do to minimise these in the future. For example, I found that starting one piece of work before completing another (because I got to a sticky bit) was a false economy as my brain kept pulling me back to the first piece!

An ability to stay focussed, committed and dedicated is without doubt going to be highly sought after as a desire for productivity and efficiency in both humans and robots increases. Oh, and if you got to the end of this without being distracted – well done!