Who can concentrate longer? You or a Goldfish

Did you say Goldfish?

Have you noticed that your attention seems lacking these days? When was the last time you read a book from front to back? Completed a work task uninterrupted for 45 minutes? Do you remember a time long ago where your focus, concentration and attention span seemed much stronger? It was before the advent of smartphones, right?

Our attention spans have been transformed and rewired by technology, there’s no doubt. Think about the time that you got your first cell phone. It was probably around the year 2000, right? Well, Microsoft did a study and they found that the average attention span to focus on a task went from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to less than 8 seconds in 2013 – a goldfish can focus better than that!

And how much of this has to do with your phone . . .

Here are some of the study highlights: 77% of 18-24 year olds said “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone”, as opposed to only 10% of 65 + year olds who tend to do that. Almost 80% of those same young people said they often use devices while watching TV, as opposed to 42% of seniors. 37%  of all participants say that they don’t make the best use of their time so sometimes they have to work late nights or on the weekends. That makes sense. Distracted people don’t make the best time managers.

To tech or not to tech

Turns out that while tech use is pushing our attention spans down–our ability to multitask and concentrate in short bursts goes UP.

So good right??  Well, the true value of being able to multi-task is controversial to psychologists at best. And that still doesn’t address the whole point of attention span.

What’s the science behind all of this?

The thrill of finding something new often connected consumers jump off one experience into another. The ‘feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released when consumers are doing something they find rewarding. ~ Microsoft advertising, Canada

So people aren’t going to throw away their smartphones, delete IG nor give up Google, so what can we do about our ever-shortening ability to concentrate?

Meditating daily can help improve the ability to concentrate. To the mind, exercising seems to be a form of meditation so that helps, too.

And there’s super important fringe benefits to “concentrating”

“When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. The more distracted we become,” Carr summarizes, “the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions” ~ Nicholas Carr, author of What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

As referenced in our last blog, we highly recommended a digital detox — a lovely little break from our phones and the Internet altogether. Information is the new drug and you need to practice periods of abstinence to fight it. Practicing mindfulness and discipline really is a proven practice here. Set break times of uninterrupted work chunks and then reward yourself in 45 min increments when you’ve successfully concentrated without distraction. You can gradually increase your work times. Stay on task and whenever something you want to check out pops into your head, just jot it down on a piece of paper. Because we have an infinite amount of information at our fingertips, we are more likely to look something up the minute we wonder about it…and perhaps falling into a wormhole of Googling. Reward yourself with looking it up when you are done your work. Remind yourself that paying attention pays off.

At Safetech we’re all about solutions, so here’s one that I’m happy to share:

I find a nice daily detox starts in the bedroom and reaps wonderful benefits.   No technology.  No phones. No TV.  Try making this one space in your home your sanctuary.  Your special peace place.   No screens between you and your me time, rest time, intimacy time.  You might find it quite lovely and a nice way to ease in to a digital detox.

And maybe, just maybe up that attention span to, count with me . . . 1  . . . 2  . . .3 . . .4. . . .5. . . .6. . . 7. . .

xo

August

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