E05 - How visual focus drives your cognitive focus

Learn one simple exercise to shift into a state of focus.

Hi everyone,

My name is Lemmy and this is my story of how I became The Attention Master.

In Episode 5, I want to make you aware of how visual focus drives your cognitive focus.

Here is what you are going to learn today:

  • The difference between attention and focus

  • How your eyes are connected to focus

  • One simple exercise to shift into a focus mode

This week’s community challenge

Spend 30-60 seconds staring at a spot on the wall before you start working.

- Lemmy, the Attention Master

Did you know that in China, children have to stare at the wall before the start of the school day? Sounds silly, but there is a very good reason for it. But before I reveal the secret, let me quickly explain the difference between attention and focus, since these two are often used as synonyms when they are not.

1. Attention vs. Focus

Attention is about managing the various inputs we receive and deciding which ones to pay attention to, including the suppression of noise or irrelevant stimuli and the enhancement of relevant stimuli.

Focus, on the other hand, is a more specific aspect of attention. It's about directing our attention to a particular thing or task and maintaining that attention over time.

2. The Concept of Spotlighting

Emily Balcetis, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at New York University (NYU), explains that focusing on a specific point (or "spotlight") can train your brain to focus.

She explains that our eyes are actually a part of the brain that transmits important information to the rest of the brain. That's why your visual focus can drive your cognitive focus, and the spotlighting technique helps you transition into a state of readiness and clear focus.

In simple words: By forcing ourselves to refocus when our gaze drifts, we're training our brains to focus better. It's perfectly normal for your focus to drift. The key question is: how quickly can you bring your focus back to the goal/task?

For Novak Djokovic, this is what made him the greatest tennis player of all time:

3. One exercise - two variations

Spotlighting can be done in two different ways:

Overt focus is when you're looking directly at a specific place or object, such as a pen, with your eyes and attention. It's a more straightforward form of focus, where your eyes and attention are aligned.

Covert focus, on the other hand, is when your eyes are focused on something, but your attention is elsewhere. For example, you might be looking at a pen, but your mind and peripheral vision are focused on a door in the room. This form of focusing requires more effort and is a skill that we, as Old World primates, have evolved to use, probably as a mechanism to evaluate our surroundings, predators, or other primates without having to stare at them directly.

4. The Protocol to take ACTION

Trigger: Stick a note on your computer.


  1. Pick a spot on the wall or screen.

  2. Set a timer for 30-60 seconds.

  3. Stare at the spot.

  4. When the timer goes off, jump right into the task at hand.

DOs & DON'Ts:

  • Increase the timer by 5 seconds each day until you reach 3 minutes.

  • Blinking is allowed.

  • Try if overt or covert works better for you.

Let me know if this works for you via
our brand new Whatsapp community
& see ya next week


  • Community Challenge: Spend 30-60 seconds staring at a spot on the wall before you start working.

  • Attention = Managing multiple inputs & deciding what to pay attention to.

  • Focus = Maintaining attention on one thing for as long as possible.

  • Cognitive focus follows visual focus.

  • Spotlighting = Looking at a target forces the brain to refocus.

  • Overt focus = Eyes and attention are aligned.

  • Covert focus = Eyes on target, attention goes elsewhere.



We know that mastering your attention is extremely difficult. It's not going to happen in a day. That's why we've created Lemio, an app designed to be your personal buddy on the journey. It's still in beta, but as a subscriber to our newsletter, you can claim your exclusive access via this link:

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