Why You Can't Pay Attention--and How to Think Deeply Again
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Our ability to pay attention is collapsing. From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections comes a groundbreaking examination of why this is happening—and how to get our attention back.
“The book the world needs in order to win the war on distraction.”—Adam Grant, author of Think Again
“Read this book to save your mind.”—Susan Cain, author of Quiet
WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Post, Mashable, Mindful
In the United States, teenagers can focus on one task for only sixty-five seconds at a time, and office workers average only three minutes. Like so many of us, Johann Hari was finding that constantly switching from device to device and tab to tab was a diminishing and depressing way to live. He tried all sorts of self-help solutions—even abandoning his phone for three months—but nothing seemed to work. So Hari went on an epic journey across the world to interview the leading experts on human attention—and he discovered that everything we think we know about this crisis is wrong.
We think our inability to focus is a personal failure to exert enough willpower over our devices. The truth is even more disturbing: our focus has been stolen by powerful external forces that have left us uniquely vulnerable to corporations determined to raid our attention for profit. Hari found that there are twelve deep causes of this crisis, from the decline of mind-wandering to rising pollution, all of which have robbed some of our attention. In Stolen Focus, he introduces readers to Silicon Valley dissidents who learned to hack human attention, and veterinarians who diagnose dogs with ADHD. He explores a favela in Rio de Janeiro where everyone lost their attention in a particularly surreal way, and an office in New Zealand that discovered a remarkable technique to restore workers’ productivity.
Crucially, Hari learned how we can reclaim our focus—as individuals, and as a society—if we are determined to fight for it. Stolen Focus will transform the debate about attention and finally show us how to get it back.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Did you know that all those pings and notifications on your phone may have a greater drag on your ability to focus than smoking pot? In this stunning book, journalist Johann Hari insightfully explores what he dubs the “attention crisis.” As Hari explains, the difficulty many of us experience trying to focus isn’t a personal failure. Drawing on scientific studies, interviews with experts, and his own personal observations, Hari makes the compelling argument that big tech, pharma, and the self-help industry profit from our diminishing attention spans. Thankfully, Stolen Focus offers up suggestions for combating the issue, like advocating for more playtime during school and implementing a four-day workweek. This book definitely deserves your undivided attention.
Journalist Hari (Lost Connections) explores a growing "crisis" people's inability to focus their attention for extended periods in this provocative study. He presents data that suggests students switch tasks once every 65 seconds, while adults in offices tend to remain focused on one thing for just three minutes. There are costs to this decrease in attention span, he suggests, from both an intellectual and a productivity perspective, as studies have shown that workers' IQ dropped by an average of 10 points when they faced frequent "technological distraction" in the form of emails and phone calls. Hari lays out a wide array of environmental factors at play in this decline: technology companies promote innovations to keep people glued to their screens; there's a large-scale sleep deprivation issue (40% of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived); and overall stress levels have increased meanwhile, "deteriorating diets and rising pollution" do little to help. Although Hari addresses some actions that readers can take (such as locking phones up in a safe and taking six months off social media), he concludes that the issue is beyond individuals and is a regulatory problem but his call that people need to band together to build "a movement to reclaim our attention" feels somewhat nebulous. Still, it's a comprehensive and chilling lay of the land.
Very insightful into the factors in our society that work against our focus and our ability to be productive, both factors that are obvious and others that are not so obvious.
This is a very much needed topic that needs a lot more attention.
I was able to engage fully with this book because I can relate to so many of the topics being discussed and how we are collectively being affected. Thank you for bringing awareness !
EVERY person needs to read this
Every parent, every person who uses social media, every person who has wondered why they can’t focus like they used to. This book is just the beginning. Take back your time. Take back your focus. Take back your life.