Focus On / Off (bookreview)

Zilvold Coaching & Training Blog Focus
9 min read

Summary: This article is a short book review of the Dutch book Focus On / Off by Mark Tigchelaar. It can help you well if you have a hard time concentrating, you are in need more focus and if you’re distracted often. It explains what the four concentration leaks are and gives you lots of tips to get more done in this world that screams for your attention.

Klik hier voor Nederlands.

Let me be honest with you. I often let myself get distracted.
I do know that I am a man who quickly becomes enthusiastic about the many new things that come on my path. And yet, I can really enjoy it when I’m in flow, when I can fully focus on a task. That gives me a lot of fulfillment and I would like to experience that more. Does this sound familiar to you?

My wife is a master in focus. If she has a goal, then she has the capacity to commit herself 100% and not to be distracted. I see more people doing things in my environment and I envy these people. In fact, I have been looking for something that could help me focus better. In this and this article I wrote how you can be more productive and I have also written about procrastination.

Focus Aan / Uit Mark Tichgelaar

How come we actually get distracted? Mark Tigchelaar clearly explains this in his book Focus On / Off (currently only available in Dutch). I am very happy to have found this book. I have never read a book so quickly and with so much focus. There were so many tips and techniques that I could practice right away. It makes me very happy and I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

In this article, I briefly describe what this book is about and what my greatest insights were. I also tell you why you should read this book and for whom this book is.

Who should read this book

Let me start with that anyway. This book is ideal for people who are distracted too much, managers who do not get to work on their own tasks because they are constantly helping their team, people who are on the brink of having a burnout (or currently have a burnout), entrepreneurs, people who work in an office garden, people who worry a lot , creative people, people who feel that they must constantly keep all the balls in the air and … people who are addicted to distraction!

Mark Tigchelaar is a neuropsychologist and talks about 4 concentration leaks that ensure that you are not focused properly. All chapters are filled with scientific evidence (which is easy to understand). The first part of the book talks about the concentration leaks and the second part focuses on productivity, distraction by managers and addiction to distraction.

The four concentration leaks are too few stimuli, too many internal stimuli, too little fuel and too many external stimuli.

Too few stimuli

Your brain is a supercomputer and if there are too few stimuli, it will get bored. Then it searches for distraction. For example, you dwell of during a conversation or you let yourself distract by reddit or Facebook during your work.

Multi-tasken & Multi-switchen

In this chapter, Mark explains the difference between Multi-tasking and Multi-switching. I always thought that Multi-tasking was not good. This does not seem to be the case at all! Multi-tasking is very good if you have too few stimuli. Are you doodling during a meeting? Very good! Apparently you are better focused on the content of the meeting. It is not when you’re drawing a new layout for the office or your home …

You are multi-switching if you change too much between tasks. You do not complete a task because you’re starting something different (because you’re interrupted). You then lose time (and brain capacity) to resume to your original task. You are switch-tasking when you realize that you are doing more things at once; When you find out that there is still a payment window open for a product that you wanted to buy when you shut down the computer in the evening …

According to Mark, you shouldn’t do this because you will lose focus.
What you have to do is read, read, remember, remember.

Too many internal stimuli

As I am writing this article, I think it would be useful to email M & M about a meeting we have tomorrow. I also realized that an invoice has not yet been paid. I actually want to send the client a reminder email. I also would like a good cup of coffee.

Our supercomputer is very good at distracting and this makes it difficult for us to focus.


What to do? Do a brain dump regularly and enjoy Entlistungsfreude. Write down all your ideas and tasks. This ensures peace of mind. After all, it no longer costs brain capacity to remember something. The Braintoss app was an absolute eye-opener for me. I do not always have a pen of paper to hand. If there is something you do not want to forget, record it. Braintoss will email you your reminder.


Routines also work well to deal with too many internal incentives. Here are my habits.

Mark encourages you to ask yourself at the start of the day what you have to do that day in order to go home fulfilled. Then make a top 3 of the most important tasks and do them first.

Too little fuel

The quality of your work and the quantity that you can produce depends on your focus. If you get tired of a lot of work or too little sleep, it will be difficult to focus.
It is therefore important to allow your supercomputer to rest and recharge. For example by taking a break. For simple tasks this can be done every 25 minutes and for deep focus tasks that can be done every 90 minutes. Mark calls this defocusing.
That does not mean that you just watch a video on YouTube. Listening to podcasts, exercising or meditating (well, that was new to me …) are also not good to defocus. Your brain still absorbs information. It is very good to wander off, daydream and look out the window. Walking also works well. And what about a power nap?

So, this wasn’t a good way to defocus even though the cappuccino was dirt cheap …!

Too many external stimuli

What causes the most external stimuli for you? For me that’s my phone. But it can also be your colleagues, your email, your partner and children. These are big concentration leaks.
Nevertheless, there are possibilities to deal with these external stimuli so that you can still get something done. It is important to reserve time in your agenda to work full focus and not to be distracted. This chapter is full of practical tips.
One is to distinguish simple tasks from difficult tasks. You do the difficult tasks if you know when you can hardly be interrupted (with the door closed, between certain times or if you wear headphones). You do the simple tasks when you can expect a lot of interruptions.

What stuck with me was the following statement by Mark:

“We often see procrastination of work tasks as a lack of motivation, but in reality it is rather a lack of moments when we can work undisturbed.”

Why you should read this book

The book is written so that you can immediately apply what you have learned. It ensures you that you want to understand what you are reading and you want to continue reading. Each chapter ends with a few specific tips, but if you read the chapters carefully, you will already discover techniques which you can apply right away.

Online you can find many more sources and tools to focus better. You can also follow an online training if you have purchased the book. I will do this soon!

What am I going to do now to be less distracted and more focus? Label my tasks, to achieve a maximum of 3 goals per day, to take real breaks more often and … to switch off my phone more often.

How do you ensure more focus in your life? What do you do to get more done? Let me know in the comment field below. I and the other readers of this article are looking forward to reading from you!

Thank you for reading up to here & sharing this article with your colleagues, friends or family. And please SHARE this article with your network on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google + by pressing the buttons below so that they can also benefit from this book review of Focus On / Off by Mark Tigchelaar.

Have you seen an error in this article? Let me know! I am grateful!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments