Stolen Focus Book Summary - Stolen Focus Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Stolen Focus summary

Why You Can't Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again

4.5 (1964 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari explores the ways in which technology is changing the way we think, work, and interact, and offers practical advice on how to reclaim our attention and focus in a world of distractions.

Table of Contents

    Stolen Focus
    Summary of 5 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 5

    It’s not just you – everyone is struggling to focus.

    Unless you’re living off the grid, you’ve probably noticed that it’s getting increasingly difficult to focus. You’re busy all the time, yet you struggle to actually get anything done. 

    In 2016, Sune Lehmann was having these exact problems. His capacity for deep focus was dwindling, and he was more susceptible to distractions than ever before. Lehmann is a professor at Denmark’s Technical University – so he didn’t simply dismiss the nagging feeling that his concentration was waning. Instead, he spearheaded a study to find out if there was actually evidence to back up his suspicion. 

    By analyzing various metrics across online platforms, he and his team discovered something interesting: In 2013, conversation topics trended on Twitter for an average of 17.5 hours before people lost interest and moved on to a new topic. By 2016, that number had dwindled to 11.6 hours. That’s a six-hour decrease in only three years. The study records similar results across platforms like Google and Reddit as well. In short, the more time we’ve spent in online spaces, the shorter our attention spans have become.

    So, is it really just the internet that’s eroding our focus?

    Well, yes. But also no. It’s not quite as simple as ones and zeros. 

    See, Lehmann also analyzed every book that’s been uploaded to Google Books between the 1880s and today. And he found that this phenomenon actually predates the internet. With every passing decade, trending topics appear and fade with increasing speed.

    Lehmann’s study is indicative rather than comprehensive, of course. And measuring these metrics isn’t a definitive way to map our evolving attention spans. But, if we accept the premise that our concentration is suffering, the next question is: Why?

    It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely, but a good jumping-off point is what think-tank director Robert Colvile calls “The Great Acceleration.” Essentially, the way we receive information is speeding up. In the nineteenth century, for example, news could take days to travel from place to place. Then, technologies like the telegraph, radio, and television sped up the spread of information. On top of this, our information inputs – the different modes through which we receive information – have multiplied. In 1986, the average Westerner ingested the equivalent of 40 newspapers a day through the various available information inputs. By 2004, that figure had risen to an astonishing 174 newspapers worth of information. Today, that figure is almost certainly much higher. 

    The internet has undeniably supercharged this acceleration. Now, information is not only available to us all the time; it actually intrudes on our lives through the ceaseless pings and notifications coming from our laptops and smartphones.

    And our brains just haven’t caught up with this acceleration. Research suggests they never will. Our capacity for focus is an emergent field of study. But research in the area of speed-reading suggests that there’s a finite limit to how quickly we can process information. And, as neuroscientists point out, the cognitive capacity of the human brain has not significantly changed in the last 40,000 years. The amount of information we put into our brains has, however, stratospherically increased.

    It’s really no wonder we sometimes find it difficult to focus.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Stolen Focus?

    Key ideas in Stolen Focus

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Stolen Focus about?

    Stolen Focus (2022) begins with author Johann Hari experiencing a common problem: his attention span is diminishing. He can’t seem to focus on much outside of Twitter and online news. Over three years, Hari tries to identify the root causes of this problem. He uncovers a collective attention crisis that’s affecting the entire globe. From social media to the culture of productivity, Hari identifies the culprits behind our stolen focus – and wonders if, and how, we can claim it back.

    Stolen Focus Review

    Stolen Focus (2022) is a thought-provoking exploration of the modern world's obsession with distraction and the impact it has on our lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a critical analysis of how constant distraction affects our focus, productivity, and overall well-being.
    • Provides compelling research and real-life examples that shed light on the psychological and societal consequences of our distracted lives.
    • Challenges readers to reassess our relationship with technology and offers practical strategies to regain control and cultivate deep focus in an age of distractions.

    Who should read Stolen Focus?

    • Anyone who feels like they just can’t concentrate the way they used to
    • Multitaskers with brimming to-do lists who still feel like they don’t get much done
    • Anyone scrolling through social media while they’re reading this!

    About the Author

    Johann Hari is a journalist and writer. His books, on topics ranging from the war on drugs to mental illness, have topped the New York Times best-seller list and been translated into 38 languages.

    Categories with Stolen Focus

    Book summaries like Stolen Focus

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    32 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Stolen Focus FAQs 

    What is the main message of Stolen Focus?

    The main message of Stolen Focus is the negative impact of digital distractions on our lives.

    How long does it take to read Stolen Focus?

    The reading time for Stolen Focus varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in around 15 minutes.

    Is Stolen Focus a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Stolen Focus is a thought-provoking book highlighting the importance of focus. Worth reading for anyone struggling with digital distractions.

    Who is the author of Stolen Focus?

    The author of Stolen Focus is Johann Hari.

    What to read after Stolen Focus?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Stolen Focus, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Power of Unwavering Focus by Dandapani
    • Attention Span by Gloria Mark
    • Focus by Daniel Goleman
    • The Power of Regret by Daniel Pink
    • Stop Reading the News by Rolf Dobelli
    • Lost Connections by Johann Hari
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
    • Peak Mind by Amishi Jha
    • Indistractable by Nir Eyal
    • 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness by Jim Rohn