The main course is ready, but the rest is not. Something is burning and the kitchen looks like hell. Then the doorbell rings, guests arriving on time, and the stress level reaches its peak. Hobby cooks know this situation. Chefs do not. Because they follow a script: First, prepare all the ingredients, clean them, cut them and put them in their place. Only then does the cooking begin. Mise en place is what the chefs call it, which is French and means something like: Everything is in its place. This preparation distinguishes chefs from amateurs.
It’s the same with learning. Our brains are not able to focus our attention constantly. They constantly cycle between two states: attention and distraction. What was once an evolutionary advantage, allowing us to respond quickly to opportunities and threats in our environment, has become great hindrance when learning in the digital era. Less distraction is the key success factor when it comes to understanding complex issues. Many experts, including Adam Grant, even call the ability to control our attention the most important skill of the 21st century.
So how can we (re)learn how to focus in a learning environment? Well, first of all, by creating great and inspiring tasks. That’s a no brainer. However, we can also increase deep focus by decreasing the number of distractions around us. Learning requires purposely bringing one’s attention to the present practice. That is why we start every CLUBNITE with a ritual that asks every member to do the following:
- Be there ahead of time.
- Make sure you are in a closed, quiet place. All by yourself.
- Keep distractions away. Turn off stuff you don’t need.
- Set your place. Prepare your material for the session.
- Create a sense of accomplishment when everything is set.
- Remind yourself why you are doing it before entering the session.