When to focus, when to roam

When it comes to creativity and focus, timing is critical. Knowing when to rein in imagination and get down to business – narrow, refine and execute ideas – can be the difference between wasted time and concrete outcomes. Creativity author, Matthew May, calls it ‘the laws of subtraction’, asking questions that enable you to focus on what matters – yet even he struggles at times. “I haven’t been as clear as I could have been, as direct,” May admits. “I’ve prattled on when I should have simplified. I’ve stayed conceptual and abstract when I should have been more grounded and tactile.” At times an inability to focus could be simple procrastination, suggests James Surowiecki in an engaging essay in The New Yorker. “The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing,” he says, “a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people.” The discipline of focus is part of the habit of innovating, adds innovation thinker, Jim Canterucci. “Awareness and curiosity expand your options, but once you move toward a solution, you need to focus, to go beneath the surface and give full attention to what you’re doing,” he says. “Focus lets us nurture particular ideas, (and) initiative to act gives purpose and momentum to the habit of innovation.”

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