10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR ATTENTION SPAN




Are there any unfinished movies on your hard drive? How many uncompleted projects do you have around the house? Any half-formed ideas floating around in your head but you just can’t focus long enough to get it down on paper? 


Find out how to improve your attention with some simple new routines.

A cat stalking a bird is a study in concentration. Everything from its brain to the smallest muscle is zoomed in on the task. Nothing can distract it. Not even you shouting: “Felix, leave the birdie alone!”

Research has shown that our minds wander 50 percent of our waking hours. As early as our 20s our attention span starts to get shorter. The good news is that you can exercise your attention muscles. But as with physical exercise, it can be hard to stick with the programme.

CONTROL THE LIGHT
Your attention is like “a flashlight that you can direct to whatever you choose”, says Amishi Jha, a psychology professor and neuroscience expert. She studies the brain’s attention mechanisms and has found that there are exercises that can help us focus for longer.

With a new fitness routine, you start small. The same with attention training. Focusing for more than 30 minutes is hard, so try the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus completely on your task. Take a break of five to ten minutes and repeat. This helps you to stay motivated and work faster while building attention stamina.

The enemy is distractions – internal ones like job stress or a craving, external ones like street noise or a text alert. These are “a basic hijacking of our attentional resources,” Amishi says.

Since it takes up to 25 minutes to refocus after a distraction, try a "not-to-do" list. When you feel the urge to check WhatsApp or follow a stray thought, write down what you want to do or think about for later. This simple act allows you to refocus.



TUNE IN, TUNE OUT
Just 10 to 20 minutes of meditation per day can improve focus and extend attention span, say researchers at the University of Washington. You'll see an improvement after just four days.

Add some mindfulness training to that, Amishi Jha suggests. It has two main categories: focused attention and open monitoring.

One routine for focused attention is mindful breathing. Sit in a comfortable, upright position and focus on the sensation of breathing. Keep going for 15 minutes and don’t get disheartened if your mind drifts off several times. Just redirect it.

Open monitoring helps you learn to pay attention to what’s happening around you without becoming attached. “You don’t process it, you don’t think about it,” Jha says. Sit in a comfortable, upright position and try to be aware of all sensations, thoughts or emotions without holding on to them. It might help to label what comes up with words like “planning,” “worrying,” “judging”. After naming it, let it go.

Clear your mind with a walk, was the ancient wisdom – and it works. Researchers say physical exercise, like a ten-minute walk break, helps build your ability to ignore distractions.



READ ON
Some studies showed that reading of e-content has gone up nearly 40%. But we’re actually reading less and less. Slate magazine asked a traffic analysis firm to look at how people scroll through their articles online and found many don’t even read halfway, while only 5 percent finish the stories.

We’re not engaging – the thing that makes reading an attention booster. It’s okay to surf, but make time for a nice, long read as well. Lose yourself completely in a book for a mental workout.



‘Attentive listening is a solid social skill. Don’t interrupt, recap what they say, use connecting words like “I get it” to stay engaged.’


LOOK AND LISTEN
The more you wonder about the world, the stronger your concentration gets. So how curious are you? William James, a legendary psychologist from long ago, offered this test. Pick a dot on the wall, focus on it. Soon enough you’ve glazed over or you’re looking at something else. But ask yourself questions about the dot – its size, colour and so on – and you can keep your mind on it for much longer. It's the technique that geniuses use to tackle problems and find brilliant solutions.

Curious is good – and so is being attentive. Next time you chat to someone, see how long they look you in the eye and listen before they glance at their phone or over your shoulder. Attentive listening is a solid social skill (who doesn’t like a good listener?) and also a mind trainer. Don’t interrupt, recap what they say, use connecting words like “I get it” to stay engaged.

It's a big, busy world. Don’t try to take in everything. Just pay attention and you’ll reap rewards.

* Take this attention span test (relax, it's only five minutes): https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests/personality/attention-span-test

Sources: artofmanliness.com, slate.com, www.inc.com, fastcompany.com, medium.com, owlcation.com
10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR ATTENTION SPAN 10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR ATTENTION SPAN Reviewed by Jet Club on June 17, 2019 Rating: 5

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