Stolen Focus

This is a book I wanted to read because it is very important subject for me. I want to be more efficient and better at whatever I want to do and to be honest, sometimes I find it difficult to sit down and try to learn something new with my computer. As well, I dont like unnecessary distractions, mainly at work…. As usual, I expected to find the magic pill to get focus. But the book was better than that, it was the author’s journey from not having focus to understand why we are in this situation and the options we have. Spoiler alert: there is no magic pill, and it is not easy (neither impossible). At some points looks quite dramatic, but I see the point.

  • Multitasking – This is a lie we tell ourselves. We “can” do several “easy” things at the same time, only. That reminds me a sentence from a person I respect highly: ATP “Make one change at a time”.
  • Flow: This chapter was mainly based on the book “Flow” from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Summary to get into “flow” mode you need: Clear goals, meaningful goals and at edge of own ability.
  • Sleep: Very important for hour healt and sanity. As well, I liked the concept of less sleep => more consume. And that reminded to something I heard once that the Netflix CEO said the only competitor of Netflix was sleep….
  • Wandering mind: Sometimes we think that is bad, but depends on the circunstancies. Meditation is a good things it calms the mind. But the point here, using Poincare example resolving an important problem, for having focus, we need to give space to our mind too.
  • Aza Raskin (infinite scroll) and Tristan Harris (Google). They are two important figures from the tech work showing the devils of social media / big tech and how works inside. These companies they want you as much as possible in their platform. And that is not always the best for you! It was interesting to read about “positive reinforcement” that is the main practice to get you hooked to social media. This was developed by BF Skinner. As well, there is a reference that one of the founder of Instagram was in the class of Skinner. As well, I liked the reference to Magic ( as it works tricking your focus!
  • These companies harvest so much data… that is easy to polarize people. Examples in Brazil (Bolsonaro supporters shouting “Facebook!!” and USA (Trump) elections.
  • Nir Eval: I read his book “Indistractable” and I follow several of his pieces of advice. He sais we have to adapt to the new circunstances. We need to find the distraction triggers. And all is about avoidance. I was surprised with the author showed the conflicts between Nir (tech is ok, it is our fault we got distructed) vs Tristan (tech is bad). As well, it was interesting to read Nir’s background in the tech industry. I dont think all tech is evil but I am clear about something. If I dont pay for a service (gmail, youtube, etc) then I am the currency (aka: If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product). So you have to be conscious about what you are using it for.
  • How to change things: change business model, instead of getting money from advertisers, you pay for the service (although dont think that would world outside the rich countries), so they will server you! not the advertisers. Government regulation. I liked the concept of “Surveillance Capitalism” that is based on “human (psychology) hacking”
  • You get focus when in a safe environment. If not, you are always in a stress mode. I liked the story of Nadine Burke Harris and her work to get kids on track in school from difficult neighbourhoods. There is a point to the “Universal Basic Income” concept that I think it is great.
  • Work hours: longer is not better. More focus, more efficiency. Win/win for employer and employees. Again this is something that is not going to work for everybody, just to office workers. Although I fully agree with it. There is too much stupidity in the office culture….
  • Food: This is our source of energy, and with the wrong diet, we can get focus. The evil of ultra processed food. There is a mention to Michael Pollan for cook books.
  • Pollution: This affects too our capacity of attention.
  • ADHD: attention illness in kids. There is a huge diagnosis of ADHD and that means a lof of prescription pills. The book mention that is not always and illness that is most of the time the environment, mainly for kids.
  • Play! It is critical for kinds to spend time outside and without supervision to be able to develop personal skill and thought process. The education system and society is getting worse at this. And I agree, I always remember when I was a kid that my best time was when going to my hometown where I could be outside all day. In the big city, this was very difficult, although I was lucky to have a football group and a small park where I spent a lot of time too!
  • Intrinsic Values: Social media is mainly based on showing-off. And we lost track of what is really important. Having the “correct values”for their own sake get us off that wheel that doesnt give us anything and always keep us unfulfilled.
  • James William (Google) mentions that there are three types of attention: spotlight, startlight and daylight.
  • Constant economy growth: we need to consume more because there are no more markets! You need to do more in the same amount of time. Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen. Steady-state economy: different goals. Pushing our mind and nature to the limit. W.H. Auden “We must love one another, or die” WWII.

In general, it is a good book that gives you a lot of information about this problem and show you examples of people of fighting it from all points: from the 4 days work week, freedom to play for kids, etc.

The author says he hasnt solved it but he has learned a lot in this journey.