Focus Sessions can help you get back on track
A few months ago I received a call from a former client out of the blue asking what I knew about adult onset ADD. She wondered if there was such a diagnosis as she was certain she had it. She described her symptoms as mildly anxious and irritable but moreover she was experiencing a total lack of focus for more than a few minutes at a time. I have been hearing a similar sentiment from clients, peers and friends over the past few months.
As life in parts of the world is getting back to “normal” many of us seem to have lost our ability to focus. I had to admit that day (and many days lately) despite the fact that I was alone in my home office, had already gone for a run and had my favorite coffee, I too was having trouble focusing. Then I saw an email from my friend Megan Flatt at the Let’s Collective about a new offering called Focus Sessions. I signed up for the free trial week immediately and blocked out Monday morning on my calendar.
I showed up early Monday and was not surprised to find 30 other participants eager to finally get some focus back in their lives. The Focus Session began with a centering exercise and a process to clear away the noise and bring us to the task at hand. I actually hadn’t mapped out what I was going to focus on as just getting to the session was a win for me. I decided to do a brain dump of all the niggling details floating around in my head. I wrote BRAIN DUMP down on my post-it and held it up for the group to witness. Then I saw an old friend who sent me a message in the chat box, “I see you!” Simple and effective, this comment cemented the fact that I was locked in for the next 37 minutes of the first focus sprint. The first sprint flew by as the contents of my head rolled out onto the paper and I began to organize my list by categories. Time for a break…what? That first sprint was over in what felt like 37 seconds and I went outside for a stretch break in my yard. I returned for the second sprint and worked through a new program offering that had been in the back of my mind for months. And then we were wrapping up. I left my first Focus Session feeling more energized for work than I had in 18 months and could not stop thinking about Why?
Focus sessions are solving some very real challenges to focusing in the post-pandemic world. I am going to explain how to use Focus Sessions to combat the two largest challenges we face and reorient our brains so that we can get back to the work we love.
- Focusing Alone is Hard
We are social beings, shaped by our social environments and as much as we here in the West like to think we pursue our own happiness, our common wiring affects our lives and livelihoods daily. The pandemic has taxed us in ways the mental health industry is just beginning to understand and people are still nervous to gather and participate in normal social interactions. Focus Sessions give us a way to safely show up for each other and get things done! That’s right, we are actually serving the collective by showing up on a Focus Session.
We are seen and held in the group for a period of time and through this structure we feel a sense of Collective Effervescence.How does this work?
When we show up to a Focus Session, we feel a part of something larger than ourselves. The term, Collective Effervescence began with 19th-century sociologist Émile Durkheim, who used it to explain what happens during religious rituals. Social psychologist Shira Gabriel, who studies collective effervescence in a broader context, describes it as the feeling of connection you get in a group experiencing the same thing like being at a concert, sporting event or political rally. She explains, “even if you don’t know the other members, you feel like the moment is special, something that transcends the regularness of normal life.”
Collective Effervescence is a prosocial emotion that attunes us to others. We feel a part of something larger than ourselves and in turn more secure. The collective experience stimulates the vagus nerve which calms our body, allows our brain to process more information and make connections more broadly. This state is essential for focusing on complex thinking, decision making, creative writing and most higher level processing. Just showing up to a Focus Session helps you feel Collective Effervescence which as an added bonus Shira Gabriel has found, “is strongly predictive of feeling like your life has meaning and having more positive emotions.”
- Our Environments are Filled with Distractions
The pandemic brought new challenges to the work from home lifestyle. Namely, everyone was suddenly home and more needs emerged for a distraction-free environment. I actually love the window into reality that has become the at home zoom call, with the spontaneous dog/bird/kids disturbances that we have all enjoyed. But kidding aside, these distracted hours have added up to a lot of unproductive work hours over the last 18 months. Each time we are distracted, it can take from 6 – 23 minutes to refocus on our task.
According to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.” Focus Sessions help to alert your family that you are going to stay focused for a period of time. These pre-planned sessions help to orient our brain to focus on the task at hand like mini rituals to combat the chaos of our work from home lifestyle.
Focus Sessions also help combat the distractions coming from inside our brains. Our brains have been stuck in hyperdrive for anxiety for so long that we are programmed to be looking for threats. The existential threat of COVID was particularly effective at ramping up the primitive part of our brain that responds quickly in order to combat threats. The problem with the ongoing threat of COVID is that our brains do not have time to recover from the flight/fight/freeze state of functioning. Many more people are suffering from a state of chronic stress which supports that collective wondering that we may be suffering from adult onset ADD. Focus Sessions help us by setting aside space to be distraction free and enable the flow state of focus to occur. We are signaling to our nervous system that we are safe and have a plan for the next 90 minutes.
I encourage you to experience the magic of these sessions for yourself and feel more connected to your work, your family and your community. You can find more information about Focus Sessions and Sign Up for a FREE 7 Day Trial!