Attention span

How to Increase Your Attention Span

By Carla Delgado

With the major lifestyle shifts due to the pandemic, it seems as if everyone’s having a hard time focusing on a single task. There are so many responsibilities and reminders for various things that it’s difficult to keep up mentally. When a simple task takes you hours to finish because you have trouble concentrating for more than a few minutes at a time, you need to improve your attention span.

Before going to the solution, it is crucial to look back at the cause – distraction. Things that remain constant don’t hold our interest quite as strong as new things do. It means that we actively look for changes in our environment because we want to be fascinated. Still, not everything is equally distracting. That is what sets self-imposed and environmentally-imposed distractions apart.

Self-imposed distractions are those under your control, such as notifications from your electronic devices and the conscious decision to multitask. Meanwhile, environmentally-imposed distractions are outside your control and harder to manage. Certain strategies can help you deal with frequent interruptions and boost your attention span while you’re working.

Focus on one task at a time.

When there are too many things on your to-do list, it can be very overwhelming. There is pressure to accomplish everything at once, but don’t do that. Focus on accomplishing one task and take it one step at a time. After checking it off, move on to another one. Multitasking is a self-imposed distraction that will only slow you down because your attention is divided.

Block off time and reserve a dedicated workspace.

For those who don’t live alone, such as students or working parents, it’s impossible to control everyone else. Interruptions may feel inevitable, but you can reduce them. Blocking off time and reserving a space will be extremely helpful. Let everyone know that you would appreciate it if no one approached you for a certain time block. If you have upcoming video calls and you don’t have your own room, tell others that you need the living room all to yourself. Remember to be respectful when making the request. Of course, there are instances where they’ll still approach you with an urgent matter, but setting boundaries help minimize the distraction.

Try time management methods.

Breaking your day into smaller chunks makes it more manageable. Because you know that you’re about to have a brief break after just a few minutes of work, there is a reduced tendency to be interrupted by self-imposed distractions. The Pomodoro Technique is quite popular, helping people optimize their time by balancing work with breaks, but other time management methods are also effective. Taking a break improves your productivity, so let go of the idea that working nonstop is better.

Agree on non-verbal cues.

Establishing some signals can let others know when you can be approached or not, and this varies in different households. To some, seeing someone wearing headphones or having the door closed is a clear sign. For families with younger kids, color-coded cues might work better. Hanging a green, yellow, and red shirt outside the door can work as a makeshift stoplight at home. That can be a teachable moment about discipline and boundaries. Parents may take the time to explain how kids also want to remain uninterrupted sometimes, and this situation is no different than that.

Learn to say no.

When you have too much work, you’ll end up sacrificing not only your time but also the quality of your output. You may even experience burnout. The reason you got into this predicament is sometimes self-imposed, too. At some point, you were afraid to say no. Perhaps you didn’t want to turn down a favor from a close friend, or you miscalculated and said yes to additional work. Check your schedule and see if you’re already swamped with work. In this manner, you’ll have fewer tasks to accomplish, and the other ones won’t distract nor pressure you so much.

Let’s face it – minds really tend to wander. Distractions are everywhere, and it’s not always possible to avoid them at any given moment. Here are some quick productivity hacks to help you get back on track when you’re losing focus:

  • Turn off all notifications on your devices, or better yet, install website and application blockers to avoid social media altogether.
  • Momentarily move to a different work station. The change in the environment may keep you from seeking or attending to distractions.
  • If you aren’t doing so already, play instrumental music or general background noise. It can significantly improve focus.
  • Bad posture can limit your capacity to pay attention, so sit up straight instead of slouching. You can also do quick stretches to get the blood flowing.

For long-term improvement of your attention span, regular meditation and exercise are also effective. Focus isn’t a lost art in this high-tech world if you know how to give your brain a little boost. You’d be surprised to see what you can achieve with a little more concentration.

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