Next Generation hosted its 6th Leadership  Series  Breakfast  Event this month; Managing Focus and Attention in a Distracted World. Our keynote speaker for this insightful and thought provoking session was Chris Flack, CEO & Founder of UnPlug. UnPlug have an extensive client portfolio across all industries, offering a range of custom corporate programmes to increase productivity, reduce tech stress and to create healthy relationships and boundaries with technology in an always on world.


I bought my first mobile phone in 1999, a phone that just made calls and sent text messages. When I started in my first office job back in 2003, there was no smartphone to check my emails constantly on the bus, at my lunch break, at dinner or before I went to bed. There was no Facebook to scroll through to distract me from reading a book or watching a programme or engaging with my family.

There were no WhatsApp groups to constantly update me on what my family all over the world are doing pinging me at all hours of the day and night.  Don’t get me wrong all of this has also been a benefit and I love knowing what is going on in the world and people I don’t get to see every day anymore. This is an area of my life that my smartphone has taken over.

I have been in the recruitment industry now for 13 years and in this time I have seen technology have a major impact on recruitment both positively and negatively. Recruitment is a human to human business, however, we have moved into the era of software and technology overload throughout the recruitment process which n can have a negative effect on productivity and stress levels if not monitored and managed effectively. With this constant threat of distraction and disruption, this is a topic area that I am keen to improve within Next Generation.


The first keynote from Chris that I attended was in 2017, which gave me some light bulb moments into how tech distractions were affecting my life, my teams’ productivity and what I could do to harness the good and improve the bad. Similarly, at Inspirefest 2017, Marcus Weldon, CTO of Bell Labs, spoke about how we are on the verge of a human revolution in relation to technology and that we need to harness it to improve our lives and ultimately save time. Chris and his team at UnPlug are at the forefront of this revolution. He says himself that he was an early adaptor of all the latest technology but he saw the effect it was having on his productivity and he looked to ways in which he could overcome it. 


Through Chris’ engaging presentation and the Leader’s Q & A at the end of the session, it is clearly evident that the issues are faced across all industries and sectors, with our guests ranging from FMCG, Technology, Financial Services and Pharma. Chris was able to provide actionable advice and tools to help the attendees overcome the issues they are faced with.



During the session we were introduced to the UnPlug toolkit, which can help you to manage your focus and attention from a personal and professional perspective and help manage behaviours.

Step 1: Awareness

Learning more about your usage is important and it might surprise you how much time you are spending on the wrong technology. Awareness is the crucial first step in helping you form new habits Apps that can help you assess this are Moment on iOS or RescueTime on Android / Desktop

Step 2: Reconfigure your technology

Have a look at the notifications you are getting on your phone or at your desk. The brain is wired to want to check these notifications instantly so they are constantly distracting us from what we actually need to get done. You can easily turn off notifications for apps on your phone in your setting so you are only checking when suits rather than for each notification. The average time we open emails after receipt is 6 seconds, so having time where your emails are closed or notifications are off is really important if we want to get into deep work. If you remove the temptation, we are creating more time and space to concentrate on what matters and as a result be more productive.

Step 3: Boundaries

Creating spaces where technology is not there is really important. If your mobile phone is in your line of sight research has shown you are never really present or getting into deep work. Simple adjustments such as having your mobile off the desk or no mobile phones/devices in meetings can help to improve productivity and improve communication and engagement with team members. At home leaving the phone out of the room during family time or getting a clock instead of using your phone.   There are apps to help with these both in the home and in the office, such as Freedom or Flipd which lock you out of certain things during particular time periods.

Changing and forming new habits takes time, however with these actionable steps you and your teams should be on the road to Managing your Focus and Attention more effectively.

For more information on the programmes that UnPlug can help you and your business with please reach out to Chris and the UnPlug Team.

If there are any areas that you would like to hear about that will help you/your team’s performance, please get in touch with me.