Friday, 16 April 2010

The Benefit Of Forced Focus

For the last few of years i haven't been watching a lot of films. I would occasionally go to the cinema, but i didn't really watch films on DVD or TV nearly as much as i used to. I was worried that spending a lot of my time on the internet and watching TV shows had degraded my ability to concentrate, to the point that i could no longer focus on one thing for 90 minutes or more.

There was however one strange exception to the rule, i really enjoyed films when i went to the cinema. My original thinking was that i enjoyed movies at the cinema because i was going to see films that i cared about seeing enough to make the effort to go to the cinema. That my enjoyment was related to the quality of the films rather than some innate property of the cinema. On reflection i think it is more likely that i enjoy films at the cinema more because i am forced to focus on the film completely. No internet, no instant messages, no e-mail notifications, no talking and no other distractions. Even the size of the screen and volume of the sound discourage other distractions. Don't get me wrong, i don't think i would enjoy a bad film just because i saw it at the cinema, but for good films i think focus has a big impact on my enjoyment.

While the cinema is great for films and concerts are great for music, i wonder if there is a way to force focus on computer based tasks and activities? Obviously there are software solutions like Rescue Time but there are always other things to distract you on a computer. Ever since computers became able to multi-task people tend to as well. It is interesting that currently the iPhone and iPad only allow you to run a single application at a time. They might be good devices for focus ... until iPhone OS 4.0 is released and they get multi-tasking.

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