We’ve been reading for years now that our attention spans have become shorter as a result of the ever-increasing demand on our brains from being online constantly. Whilst it appears there is no real evidence that our ability to concentrate has decreased, there’s no denying that our focus is constantly being pulled from email to cat video to online shopping to another email…all within seconds.Whilst this may not be such an issue at home, it certainly impacts on our work life, with the lure of the
We’ve been reading for years now that our attention spans have become shorter as a result of the ever-increasing demand on our brains from being online constantly. Whilst it appears there is no real evidence
that our ability to concentrate has decreased, there’s no denying that our focus is constantly being pulled from email to cat video to online shopping to another email…all within seconds.
Whilst this may not be such an issue at home, it certainly impacts on our work life, with the lure of the internet taking us away from our job as we ‘quickly google something’. A study
from the University of California Irving discovered that, even when returning to a work task almost immediately, we work at a weaker capacity than before the distraction and it takes almost a full 25 minutes to get back into the flow.
Below, we round up a few tips to help increase your attention span and therefore make your work day more productive again.
1. FIGURE OUT YOUR ATTENTION-GRABBING DOWNFALL
Increasing your attention span is, to some extent, about taking away the things which enable your focus to wonder. Perhaps it’s social media, the news, another cup of tea, a spot of online shopping, checking your phone, over-researching, eating, chatting to colleagues, the list is endless. What is the one main thing you find yourself being distracted by? Keep your eyes open to your habits for a day and see what comes up – it might be something totally different to anticipated. Once you’re aware of what takes your attention away from the task at hand, it’s far easier to set up systems to keep from falling into the same trap over and over again.
2. THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
We clearly see the irony in using technology to help us from being distracted by technology. But there are many apps and desktop features which work to draw our attention to how much time we spend getting distracted online and to keep us on task. Some of our favourites are:
| Free | Apple & Android | Programme how long you need to focus for (25 minutes is the recommended time before you take a short 5 minute break) and hit ‘start’. This begins the growth of a virtual tree on your phone screen. If you wish to use your phone for anything else in this time, you will be asked if you wish to kill the tree. Of course you don’t want to kill your tree – you want to grow a full forest by the end of the day! Surprisingly effective and rewarding, we highly recommend Forest to improve your concentration.
| free trial | Mac only | With Focus, you can choose which websites you wish to block for a specific period of time. Any time you try to access them , you will instead face a nice motivational quote to get you back on track.
| free | Apple & Android | If you really struggle to concentrate, maybe it’s time to start practising. You’ll no doubt have heard that the brain is a muscle which requires regular exercise to keep its strength up: this is where brain-training comes in. Peak consists of a range of games which challenge your focus, memory, problem solving and mental agility. Practising each day will quickly tune up these skills and are fun into the bargain.
The above apps are specifically designed to help you concentrate and lessen your distractions. But how about all the other apps on your phone? If you find yourself opening up Facebook or Instagram one (or fifty…) too many times, the answer to is to simply delete them. You can still access Facebook, Twitter, etc on your desktop if needed – perhaps set a certain number of times you will check in each day. Believe us, that cat video can wait another few hours…
3. CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT
Working in an office environment, especially open-plan is an invitation to being constantly distracted. If you really do need to get your head down and get on with it, you have a few options to increase your focus. Firstly: headphones. You can pop your favourite background music on (no catchy lyrics) or be a little cheeky and not even listen to anything…just putting your headphones in signifies that you’re trying to concentrate and gives you an excuse not to ‘hear’ when someone speak to you (uh-hum). Just don’t admit NMIOB gave you this advice….
Whilst escaping to a cafe or working from home are also both good alternatives getting you away from chatty colleagues, it may not always be possible to leave the office. If so, hunt out an empty meeting room, close the door, set a temporary ‘out of office’ on your email, switch your phone off (or leave it in your desk) and focus. It’s amazing how quickly your attention span appears to increase with nothing to think about but your work.
4. TRAINING TIME-FRAMES
Whilst attending a day-long conference or workshop can seem like a good use of time, being bombarded with a lot of information at once can make it hard to pull out the most important parts that are most applicable to you and your work – let alone act on it efficiently. This is why we offer our Don’t Just Be Lunchtime Lessons
, a monthly one-hour group coaching session which give attendees a bite-sized look at a topic they then have the time to think on over the next month. One hour is a far easier amount of time to concentrate for and keeping information to just one topic avoids the overwhelm that often leads to seeking distraction elsewhere. You can find out more about these lessons here
5. BUILD UP SLOWLY
Today, focus on report-writing for 10 minutes, tomorrow 15 minutes….Schedule the time in, set an alarm when you’ve finished that small task and build a little more each day. Another five minutes isn’t going to be too tricky to focus for.
Being aware of the triggers which cause your attention to falter and finding the adjustments which work for you will slowly help to build your concentration back up. Though we can’t promise it will ever be as good as it was pre-internet…..
What do you do to stay on task when your mind starts to wonder?
No More Ifs Or Buts.