Focus and Finish with the Crown of Concentration

An open floor plan used to be a good idea. After two months quarantining with Vicki Robin, I came to my sister’s house to help if needed and be with family.

And yes, we are together.

The living room, office, dining room, and kitchen are all one room. Outside is a patio that’s lovely if it’s not hot. But it’s getting hot.

My nephew is “in” high school. My sister is supposed to have off days but is still being bombarded with work. We are mentally in separate worlds ⁠— AP physics class, taking care of a team, article deadlines ⁠— but we keep bumping into each other. 

“Where’s the phone cord?”

“What should we do for dinner?”

“Does anyone want to go for a walk?”

On my video meetings with clients, kiddos pop in to tell mom that it’s cold outside. “Well I can’t talk about that for five more minutes.”

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It reminded me of something that I learned while helping Nir Eyal as his editorial assistant for his book “Indistractable.” It’s a visual way to reduce distraction.

We learned during our research that interruption is terrible for concentration. During a study of nurses, it was found that “Interrupting a nurse just once in the process of preparing and administering medication was associated in a large-scale study with a 12% increase in procedural errors (such as a breach in sterile technique) and a 13% increase in clinical errors (such as wrong timing or wrong dose). The severity of errors was also found to increase with interruption frequency.”

So nurses started wearing vests that said, “Do Not Interrupt—Medication Round in Progress.” Their interruptions and mistakes went down.

The vests were visual and obvious. Nir, the author of Indistractable, and his wife, Julie, came up with something visual, obvious, and a little more for their daughter to know when they were busy.

We call it The Crown of Concentration in this house. 

I like my crown. It makes me feel like a pretty pretty princess. When my coaching client Dinah heard I had one, she demanded I wear it during our weekly meeting. 

I’m wearing mine right now. My sister just tried to say to me: “Our food is almost here.”

I pointed to the crown.

She pouted.

“It was food-related.”

I gave her a look.

“And time-sensitive.”

The crown is a visual language you all have to learn to speak.

But you can also have a location in the house, a roped-off area where no one is allowed to talk to you (might you have a tent?) It can be a very obvious necklace, or a sign, or a middle finger in the air.

We used to call this “Going in the cave.”

It’s just nice for people not to have to ask, “Are you busy? Are you working? Are you in the cave?” Because even asking that interrupts your work. 

It does help to announce, “Crown on” and “Crown off.”

Obviously the chances of this actually working decrease the lower the ages of your children.

Let’s be honest, you’re stuck inside, you’re going a little nuts anyway, so why not put a crown on it?

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