Attention, concentration, focus, flow… These are words associated with mental states that assist in doing work. If we can focus our attention, we might be able to concentrate long enough to reach flow state, and actually get some work done. In this stimulation-rich world, focusing attention and finding flow is more easily discussed than done, but scientific understanding of attentional processes can simplify the challenge.
Our senses are constantly inundated with information: the light streaming in the windows, the sight of people passing by on the street, the smells of a cafe, the sounds of conversations and dogs barking over the din of city traffic, the light scrape of oxford cloth around your neck, the pressure of the hardwood table on your elbows. Each time you notice something in your environment, you are paying attention to it. The ability to focus your attention on something while ignoring competing stimuli is called selective attention by psychologists, and we would never get anything done without it. Can you imagine how distracting it would be to notice every little detail in your environment at all times?