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How to Improve Attention Span If Your Mind Is Distracted

Many of us find it difficult or unusual to focus on one item for an extended amount of time. Technology has made exciting knowledge more accessible than ever before, and since more people than ever are working from home, it’s not difficult to find a (sometimes welcome) diversion. That is why mastering the skill of lengthening attention span over time may be so challenging. Even if you feel focused, your mind isn’t always working on the current task. Harvard researchers found that people are distracted or zonked out for 47% of their waking hours. While having a wandering mind can increase creativity, it is less beneficial for maintaining focus. When you can’t focus, your to-do list will expand and the job you do manage to do will contain more errors.

Fortunately, you can improve your attention span with a little planning to increase your productivity and efficiency in both work and life. In this article, the answer to the following question will be discussed:

  • What Science Says About Slipping Attention Spans
  • Why Has Our Attention Span Decreased?
  • How Long Is the Average Attention Span?
  • Can You Improve Your Attention?
  • How Can You Increase Your Attention Span?

How to Improve Attention Span If Your Mind Is Distracted

Read more: Four powerful tactics to overcome distractions (Focus)

What Science Says About Slipping Attention Spans

According to a 2015 study, the digitalized lifestyle is to blame for the human attention span decreasing from 12 to 8 seconds in less than two decades. And we are no longer paying attention like goldfish! The New York Times, Telegraph, and Time magazines have all covered this astounding discovery. It is absurd, so it makes sense if it sounds such. The BBC and the Wall Street Journal later disproved the “goldfish myth”:

The parameters that scientists monitor haven’t been altered in decades. Professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Chicago Edward Vogel stated, “I’ve been measuring college students for the past 20 years.” It has maintained remarkable stability over many years. As attentive or as inattentive as people have ever been, we are. However, brain-training games based on contemporary neuroscience should undoubtedly offer us an advantage over our forebears. Additionally, scientifically created brain supplements ought to improve our ability to think clearly, quickly, and without interruption.

Read more: Common Ways to Avoid Distraction and Stay Focused on a Task

Why Has Our Attention Span Decreased?

The increase in external stimulus over the past ten years has made it harder to maintain concentrated attention. However, the majority of psychologists agree that it is strongly task-dependent. The task’s relevance, our level of interest, the surrounding stimuli, etc. all affect how we focus our attention. While reading this post, some of you have probably already started to drift off and check Facebook, your messages, or the questions your children are asking. Your body’s response to stress or stimulation is a limited attention span. However, if your lack of focus has persisted over time, it might be brought on by one of the following:

  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Learning disorders such as dyslexia
  • Trauma

If so, behavioral therapy may be necessary for you to get better.

Read more: Common science-proven ways to stay focused

How Long Is the Average Attention Span?

The notion of an average attention span, in the opinion of Dr. Gemma Briggs, a psychology instructor at the Open University, is meaningless. She says that: It is heavily task-dependent. The level of attention we devote to a task will change based on its demands. This is especially true when you examine how frequently people switch between social media apps in just 30 minutes, how long an employee can check their email before losing interest, and how long a movie can be watched without losing interest. In light of this, you shouldn’t worry too much about the notion of the average attention span. Everyone drifts off concentration at times, so it’s up to you to deliberately try to get it back.

Read more: Understanding flowtime techniques

Can You Improve Your Attention?

A group of 70 scientists claimed in an open letter released in October 2014 that there was no scientific basis for brain training games in general. Another team of scientists soon refuted this letter. Even still, they all concurred that “claims favoring brain games are typically overdone, and are frequently deceptive.” Then, in 2016, the brain-training software Lumosity made news when it was fined $2 million by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising:

According to Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ worries about age-related cognitive decline, stating their games could fight off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.” But Lumosity lacked the science to support its advertisements, plain and simple. Brain supplements tell a similar tale.

Dr. Gad Marshall, a Harvard Medical School dementia expert, advises “investing more in cardiovascular activity and eating a plant-based diet. These have a longer-term effect on memory and brain health than any supplement can. Even with regards to athletic performance, Dr. Dan Bernadot, co-director of Georgia State University’s Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance, states in his book Nutrition for Serious Athletes:

Most of the time, ergogenic aids’ (nutritional supplements) performance-enhancing promises are exaggerated. He makes a long-winded case that, even for the majority of professional athletes, getting enough food, water, and rest will be more important than any supplements. The traditional method is used by those who are adept at paying attention.

Read more: How to focus completely to increase productivity

How Can You Increase Your Attention Span?

Do you wish to improve your attention span? Start with these scientifically proven ideas on how to improve attention span. The following are twelve scientifically proven ideas on how to improve attention span:

  • Avoid multitasking
  • Avoid Distractions
  • Take Good Care of Your Body
  • Try playing a Game
  • Listening to the right music
  • Meditation
  • Restructure Your Work Day
  • Do some Exercise
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take Stock of the Important Things in Life
  • Take a lot of easy steps
  • Focus and Re-Focus

 

Read more: Easy Ways to Refocus a Wandering Mind

Avoid multitasking

For everyone, resisting the need to multitask can be challenging. You’re not entirely “here” or “there” while you’re juggling tasks like sending emails and preparing presentations or reading a professional article while keeping your Zoom tab open. Unfortunately, even while you might think you’re getting more done when you frantically pivot your activities, you actually run the danger of completing less. This is because switching between tasks requires dividing your attention, which makes each activity require less of you. When you’re not completely concentrated on one item at a time, you’re also more likely to make mistakes.

Furthermore, every time you switch modes, you incur a cognitive “cost” and lose time and energy.  Consider your mental capacity—your capacity for thought—as a resource. You drain the resource each time you change your concentration, which results in less attention being paid to your short- and long-term objectives and chores. Therefore, if you’re having trouble learning how to lengthen your attention span, close all superfluous tabs on your computer and in your head while concentrating solely on one job. You’ll benefit in terms of your work and thinking. Your sole attention should be on that one task until the intended work is finished. You’ll notice that you’re moving forward more significantly and are less stressed.

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Avoid Distractions

Marketer Nir Eyal told the tale of a Yale School of Management assistant professor of marketing who became dependent on her pedometer in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. She once put in a tough two hours climbing her staircase to increase her app’s score total. Even extremely intelligent people can become distracted, which may surprise you. You may not realize how much your surroundings influence your attention span. Therefore, try getting rid of any distractions if you’re having trouble focusing on what’s in front of you. Not only will you be better able to concentrate on the task at hand, but you’ll also be less inclined to multitask if you’re not given the choice.

That could entail closing your email browser until the task is finished or donning headphones to block out background noise while working. While trying to complete anything important, it can also include uninstalling social networking apps from your phone and disabling notifications. Better still, leave your phone in another room entirely. According to studies, having a phone close can be distracting.

Read more: 5 ways of staying focused while working from home with children

Take Good Care of Your Body

Have you ever observed that it’s far more difficult to focus on something for a long period of time when your physical condition isn’t at its best? Personally, I try to put getting a good night’s sleep, regular exercise, meditation, and nutrition first during hectic or demanding times at work. I’ve discovered that all these things give me the impression that my mind is sharper, enabling me to concentrate more intently on people, tasks, and projects.

Taking good care of your body is one of the finest ways to lengthen your attention span. Numerous studies have shown that taking care of our bodies has a direct impact on our minds. For instance, one study found that even brief periods of moderate physical activity can enhance cognitive regulation, or the capacity to focus. A good night’s sleep also makes a significant effect. Scientists have shown that lack of sleep can affect a person’s memory, capacity for basic daily tasks, and yes, attention span. The moral of the story is to take care of your body first if your mind seems to be suffering. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also perform better at work.

Try playing a Game

Building up your “brain muscles” can be entertaining and help you become more attentive over time. Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, and memory games are just a few examples of games that require concentration and work your memory.

You can get the benefits of focusing on a game quickly, just like with exercise. According to the study, playing mind-training games for just 15 minutes a day, five days a week, is sufficient to produce results. Additionally, you’ll acquire problem-solving abilities along the road that will help you at work. A 2018 study showed evidence that one hour of video gaming can help people focus attention on particular tasks while ignoring distractions. This is good news for video gamers.

Read more: How to Easily Avoid Social Media Distraction

Listening to the right music

When trying to focus on deep work, noise can occasionally be distracting, which can shorten your attention span. However, the right sounds particularly, certain musical genres—can significantly boost your capacity for improving attention to the important things. According to one study, both ambient and classical music significantly enhanced concentration compared to silence. According to a second study conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine, listening to brief symphonies activates the brain’s attention- and memory-related regions. To improve your attention span, consider listening to a playlist or radio station on your preferred streaming app. Interestingly, your brain benefits the most from the brief gaps between songs.

Meditation

Not only is meditation good for your mental health, but it can also help you focus more clearly. Your focus is being trained while you meditate on anything, and it will eventually become more expansive. Consider meditation to be brain weight training. You’ll be able to concentrate better the more you accomplish.

According to one study, while healthy habits like eating a balanced diet may aid with focus, meditation had a stronger effect on attention span. In the study, University of California-Santa Barbara students who engaged in mindfulness and meditation for just 10 to 20 minutes, four times per week, fared better on memory assessments and attention-demanding tasks. Try installing an app like Headspace or Calm if you’re new to meditation to include it in your daily practice. Just be cautious to hide your phone from view while working.

Read more: Easy tactics on how to handle a lot of tasks

Restructure Your Work Day

My experience has shown that the harder and more boring my workday, the more I am tempted to drift off into another mental state (or, honestly, log onto social media). I deliberately divide my work time into smaller segments because of this. I can focus solely on whatever needs to be done when I have breaks to look forward to. The proof goes beyond anecdotal reports. Studies have shown that breaking up your job into smaller, more manageable portions and taking regular breaks will increase your ability to pay attention.

A sweet spot for productivity appears to exist. One study found that the top 10% of employees concentrated intently for an average of 52 minutes before taking a 17-minute break. Therefore, if you find it difficult to concentrate, consider working for 45 to 60 minutes at a time, followed by a 15-to-20-minute break. You’ll not only be able to complete more (and better) work as you reduce distractions and establish routines that keep you focused, but you’ll probably also start to like what you’re doing.

Do some Exercise

As physical activity releases chemicals in the brain that alter learning and memory, it can help you pay more attention and concentrate better. Even better than a cup of coffee, about 30 minutes of exercise can give you a temporary boost in mental and cognitive function, enhancing your intelligence and facilitating better concentration. Exercise can enhance memory, prevent depression, and help you avoid a cognitive loss that can result in dementia or other comparable diseases in addition to enhancing focus and short attention spans.

Read more: Common ways of being mindful at work for better concentration

Drink plenty of water

You might be mildly thirsty if you have trouble staying focused. Thirst “impairs cognitive performance, particularly for tasks involving attention, executive function, and motor coordination when water deficits surpass 2 percent BML,” according to one assessment of 33 research. According to Dr. Dan Bernadot, co-director of Georgia State University’s Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance:

The promises of ergogenic aids’ ability to improve performance are frequently exaggerated, according to nutritional supplements. Given this, nutrition and hydration will be more beneficial to you than supplements. Thankfully, our bodies are wonderful at letting us know when to hydrate. It’s time to get a glass of water when you even faintly notice that you are thirsty. Remember that sipping on tiny amounts of water throughout the day rather than downing a glass at once can aid your body in continually absorbing the fluids.

Take Stock of the Important Things in Life

Think about the tasks that concern and stress you the most if you want to maintain your attention. These are probably the items in your life that need the most attention if you want to improve your mental health. Once you’ve done this and decided where you’re going to put your attention, you may divide these significant activities into smaller ones that are simpler to carry out and will accumulate over time to advance you toward the bigger overall goal.

Read more: Why Prioritizing Yourself Increases Productivity

Take a lot of easy steps

Without completing a number of minor phases, large tasks cannot be completed. Determine what modest steps you can take to further that overarching objective if you feel like your concentration is waning or slipping away. Each task on this list that you complete, no matter how tiny, moves you one step closer to achieving your final goal. Making this way of thinking a habit will help you concentrate better in the future.

Focus and Re-Focus

What you can do when you’ve had enough is the key to improving your attention span. The level of focus required for a task to be completed consistently throughout time is called sustained attention. The average person can’t focus on one thing for more than 40 minutes at a time. Greatly focused individuals, on the other hand, are aware of when they stray from their course and deliberately decide to return to it.

In summary

It takes a lot of work at first to learn how to improve your attention span, especially if you already have trouble focusing. But if you adopt the appropriate attitude, practice discipline, and adhere to these twelve steps, you will eventually learn to master your ability to concentrate and improve your attention span. That is all for this article, where the answers to the following questions are been discussed:

  • What Science Says About Slipping Attention Spans
  • Why Has Our Attention Span Decreased?
  • How Long Is the Average Attention Span?
  • Can You Improve Your Attention?
  • How Can You Increase Your Attention Span?

I hope you learn a lot from the reading, if so, kindly share with others. Thanks for reading see you around.