Book Review : Stolen Focus

“You don’t get what you don’t fight for.”

Stolen Focus

We all struggle with our focus, whether we know it or not. How long it takes us to disconnect from the world and have a thought without distraction? How many times do we glance at our mobile devices and observe its pinging or illumination? Do we experience fatigue from inactivity?

The current environment we find ourselves in encourages us to achieve our goals by being busy in constantly looking around for information. Starting with notification on laptop/workstation/mobile. All of them try to get our attention, whether it is work-related or social. These services are incentivised to keep our gaze on them continuously. This happens with applications on our mobiles, laptops, or even TV and printed media. The content is meant to make us check them again to get that dopamine satisfaction.

“Stolen Focus” a book by Johann Hari that explores the causes and solutions of our attention crisis. It is based on his three-year journey across the world to interview the leading scientists and experts on this topic. He argues that our focus has been stolen by powerful external forces, and that we can get it back if we fight for it!

The book talks about forces, which are stealing our focus. Few of them are:

  • The rise of consumerism and advertising : mass production and mass consumption created a new culture of distraction and dissatisfaction. Advertisers learned how to manipulate our desires and emotions, and make us crave more and more things that we don’t really need or want.
  • The fragmentation of our work and leisure : Our work environments have become more stressful, demanding, and interruptive, with constant emails, meetings, and deadlines. Our leisure time has also become more fragmented, with endless entertainment options competing for our attention.
  • The design of social media and smartphones : Technologies are deliberately engineered to hijack our attention and make us addicted to them. They exploit our psychological vulnerabilities, such as our need for social approval, our fear of missing out, and our curiosity for novelty.

This book has provided me with an understanding of how the focus is being diverted, given the limited time available, and the importance of identifying how resources are being wasted or invested. The book provides additional insights into not only problems or reasons to lose focus, but also helpful tips to avoid them. The more I explored the book, the deeper I went and got a deeper understanding of this subject.

Definitely a good read, and highly recommended. Checkout summary below in my mind map.

Join my reading challenge Sumit’s 2023 reading challenge | Goodreads

Hofstadter’s Law

Any task you planning to tackle will always take longer than you expect, “even when you take into account Hofstadter’s law” in other word, even if you know that a given project is likely to overturn, and you adjust your schedule accordingly, it will overrun your new estimated finishing time too

Whatever you plan, you gonna miss it!

I’m following productivity tools for past most than a decade, and teaching teams and people on productivity, time management and planning and prioritisation for past 10 years, and I came across this law!

It’s like I’m getting answers to my never ending grinding of brain to be “more productive” and get my inbox zero!

It never happens, even if it happens, it stays that way for short while to be more frustrated and more demanding on self to be more productive, it’s never ending quest to be more efficient.

So the crux of this law is, even if you give yourself a standard advice during planning to give yourself twice as much as time needed for activities that your think you needed, could actually make matter worst, I.e failing in meeting that too.

This law is everywhere. We are so used to it, we just ignore it. However great companies are, however they are full of “planners” and “project departments”, they all face the same ire and same sense of “falling behind schedule”. Whether it’s Airbus delaying and messing up with A380, or Boing messing up with its upcoming human space flight (I’m sure both companies pride themselves for best of the best talents on world for risk based planning of their project. But here we are. Whether it’s desi L&T, having one of the biggest project departments in India, messing with timelines on each and every projects (ahmm… sea link) or Reliance for that matter. Or take our daily failure of estimating in how much time it will take to pick up the groceries on the way home from work. I underestimate each time. It’s so evident, but it’s so hidden.

With much fanfare for this project, it’s what I understand 1/5th of whole scope, and not taking about cost escalations and timelines.

This is little unsettling, because the law seems true, certainly seems to be in my experience ~ it suggest something very strange : that the activities we try to plan for somehow actively resist our efforts to make them conform to our plans


Our effort to be come good planners, not only fails but causes things to take longer still. To be fair, specially during pandemic, whenever me and my partner tried to book some vacation in advance, eventually failed to execute due to last minute lock down announcements (planners are missing may be) or something at work didn’t stick to the plan.

Trouble with so emotionally invested in planning for future my whole life is though, while it occasionally prevent a catastrophe, the rest of the time it tend to exacerbate the very anxiety it was supposed to take care. Non stop reviews of plan, anxiety on probable delays and upcoming delays, so much so, small success of achieving a milestone was getting overwhelmed by upcoming doubts on future millstones and actions to avoid those future delays, misses the opportunity on applauding what went great with last achieved milestones.

No one is certain about future, specially you can never be truly certain about the future, when we don’t see present and appreciate it.


Productivity Is More about Mind-Management than Time-Management

by Aytekin Tank

Came across a blog with above title. And it’s wonderful. It’s really mindset that.l needs to be fined tuned over what tools we use to make us more productive.

We have many tools and strategies as well as long list of self help books, what’s needed is a mindset to change once’s practice and become more productive.

What I have seen, including myself , we use and learn all these tools with Big Bang, but go back to original “productivity”, blaming either the tools, or being modest and blaming self discipline. Whatever those reasons are, the root cause is always “I’m not motivated” of being productive.

How counter productive is this? Oxymoron may be. But that’s the truth. The truth is, unless one has high Blood pressure or deep sickness, one doesn’t look for his health easily (I know, some of you reading this will be as fit as Rambo, but listen me out), similarly as ping the burn out is manageable and the underperformance is not impacting my routine I’m ok with my habit of loosing sight of my goals or procrastinate something.

But why to wait?

Look for opportunities and start now. Start now saving time and start now in investing future. I’ll talk about this in coming blog. Meanwhile do visit the blog which I came across.