We've talked about ways to improve your attention span before, but before you change anything else, there's one thing you can do that will make the most difference: Stop stretching your attention span so much. By overtaxing yourself, you actually do more harm than good.
Photo by Pete
This harks back to advice we've heard several times before -- if you want to be more productive, take more breaks. Essentially, working at full capacity requires energy, and when that energy is depleted, your focus and attention span degrade pretty quickly. Without rest, our attention and willpower reserves dwindle, and we find our minds wandering, unable to focus on even simple tasks for too long -- our attention span is shot.
So what can you do about it? Taking a break is one good technique, and single-tasking is another. Here's how Daniel Goleman, author and Co-Director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organisations at Rutgers University, put it:
Attention is a mental muscle, and can be strengthened with the right practice. The basic move to enhance concentration in the mental gym: put your focus on a chosen target, like your breath. When it wanders away (and it will), notice that your mind has wandered. This requires mindfulness, the ability to observe our thoughts without getting caught up in them.
Then bring your attention back to your breath. That's the mental equivalent of a weightlifting rep. Researchers at Emory University report that this simple exercise actually strengthens connectivity in the circuits for focus.
Alternatively, he notes, you can always take a brain-boosting nap. Hit the link below to read more.
To Strengthen Your Attention Span, Stop Overtaxing It [Harvard Business Review]