The shortening of attention span is a modern crisis. Life is being constantly adapted to be as efficient and as pleasurable as possible, and as a result, our attention spans are suffering.
I used to have an awful attention span, I couldn’t sit through a movie without checking my phone several times, I wouldn’t be able to read anything longer than a page, and I would constantly leave tasks partially complete.
If this sounds a little bit like you then I’m going to detail how to fix it.
Unfortunately, this is not a quick and easy fix, and if you have a short attention span you’ll likely be put off this advice for that reason alone. But if the thought of working at something while making gradual improvements discourages you from a goal then you are exactly the type of person who needs this advice.
Firstly I just want to talk about what a short attention span looks like. You need to have realistic expectations of what this method is going to give you.
A short attention span is where your interests and intents change rapidly. It is not a lack of motivation and discipline (although you may also have these issues). But rather the inability to remain focused to one task at a time. (Side note: some people may have an attention deficient disorder known as ADD, if you feel your attention span issues are particularly bad, consider consulting a professional)
Here are some signs you might have a short attention span:
- You cannot watch a half hour video/tv show without checking your phone
- You read the Youtube comments while the video is still playing
- You try to read but are drawn back to your phone after just a few pages
- You forget things constantly
How to fix your attention span:
I’m sure for most of you seeing this as the first step is not a massive shock. Social media is absolutely destroying your attention span.
Let’s just think about how social media works; a computer algorithm picks which content is most rewarding TO YOU PERSONALLY. It then displays this content one after the other. Your attention span is being forced to change topics (and is being rewarded for doing so) every couple of seconds. Is it any wonder you struggle to read a book for 20 minutes when you can literally cycle through hundreds of Tiktoks, Tweets or Instagram posts in that time?
Social media is giving you intense spikes in dopamine, which is basically your brain’s happy hormone. These spikes of dopamine are short but intense, it makes you feel good but it also fades quickly, making you crave another piece of rewarding content. Contrast this with an activity such as reading. Dopamine levels increase slowly but remain for a longer period of time. They will likely not be as intense as the spikes from social media content, but they don’t fade as quickly making you less needing of another dopamine hit.
My best advice would be to get rid of your social media completely. I’ve preached the effectiveness of it before soI’m not going to go into it too much in this post. Instead I’ll give you some ways you can adapt your social media use to make it a bit more attention span friendly.
- Use social media solely on your laptop/PC. This helps limit the constant temptation that having literally everything that ever existed in your pocket brings.
- Set usage limits. You do not need to spend over an hour a day on Instagram.
- Turn off notifications.
- Greyscale the apps if you can. Making the content black and white is instantly less rewarding to your brain.
The second thing you need to do to fix your attention span is practice increasing your attention span. This takes time, and at the start especially can be quite frustrating. You need to do things that can help lengthen your attention span. My two best options for these are reading and meditation. These are such effective practises because you can incrementally increase the time spent doing them.
For example, if you struggle to read without picking up your phone, set a five minute timer and force yourself to read for that amount of time. The next day do 7, then 10, then 10 a few more times, then 12, then 15 and before you know it you’ll be able to read for 40 minutes and not feel inclined to look at your phone. Meditation is also super effective at this but is a bit more challenging for those with short attention-spans, my best advice for this would be to start with guided meditations, that way your brain is still being stimulated, just to a lesser degree.
The most important thing about this method is you must do both things simultaneously. You need to reduce short attention activities and add in more attention lengthening activities. By only addressing one aspect of the problem you will fail to gain the benefits.
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