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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

How to Focus Better and Increase Your Attention Span

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How to Focus Better and Increase Your Attention Span

Can you remember the last five articles you read? More importantly, do you remember how they ended?

Studies show that a reduced attention span is formed and enhanced by companies like Facebook & Google, SnapChat, and their peers[1]. Instead of relying on expensive marketing, they link their services to our daily routines and emotions.

What do you do when you feel a tad boredDo you instantly open Twitter or Instagram? 

Today, tech companies can profoundly change our behavior by guiding us through a series of hooks. The hooked model was developed by Nir Eyal in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products , typically consists of four phases:

1. Trigger

Imagine a friend of yours is uploading a picture to Instagram (external trigger). You see it and click on it. Over time you form an internal trigger, which you attach to your behavior or emotions. 

2. Action

You like the post. Maybe you click on it and see the whole album of your friend’s holiday. 

3. Variable Reward

You’ll see more pictures of your friend. You don’t know what you will see when you scroll down your feed. Many pictures, status updates, and ads may bore you to death, but there are some rare gems that you really enjoy (or hate).

4. Investment

Finally, you leave a comment on the picture, and you don’t know if your friend will reply or like your comment. 

When you invest time and effort into an app, it’s more likely that you’ll pass through the hooked cycle again in the future, which will reduce your ability to focus. 

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How to Stay Focused and Increase Your Attention Span

If you are wondering if you can learn how to focus and increase your attention span, you want to inject awareness before you form negative habits.

1. Be More Aware of Your Actions

For this, a simple approach developed by Martin Boeddeker to overcome our internet addiction[2] works to respond to the reason for your reduced attention span and increase your focus.  

How far away is your mobile phone right now? Most people are within one arms length away from their phones 24/7.

In one experiment[3], researchers found that anxiety levels of many people increase drastically after just 10 minutes of not being able to use their phone, and their level of anxiety continued to decrease in the next 60 minutes as well.

Another study[4] points out that “simply the presence of a cell phone and which it might represent (i.e., social connections, broader social network, etc.) can be similarly distracting and have negative consequences in a social interaction.”

Rightfully, Larry D. Rosen commented on this experiment in his book The Distracted Mind:

“If the presence of a mobile phone can negatively affect social connections and feelings of closeness during a short conversation with a stranger, what does that imply about how it can impair our real relationships?”

2. Write Down the Things that Distract You

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with tasks and unable to focus, keep a little piece of paper and a pen/pencil with you and write down the things you check often, putting a mark next to those things each time you check them[5].

If you use this technique of noting when you use your cell phone you raise your awareness. That’s the first step to increase your attention span.

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If this does not work for you, there are several apps and softwares you can download that will track your usage of various websites, helping you to see where you’re spending your time. 

The goal is to get you an accurate picture of the distractions taking your focus from the important tasks in front of you. 

The best way to work on your attention is to raise your awareness, notice when you get distracted, and create a mental pause for just one second.

During this mental pause, simply ask yourself, “Am I distracted again, and why?”

Try to catch yourself as often as possible when you get distracted. This will tremendously help in your pursuit of increasing your attention span. If you find this difficult, try working with meditation for five minutes each day. This will increase your awareness of your thoughts, which can help you identify when your mind wanders.

3. Reduce Proximity and Exposure by Design

Ideally, you want to reduce proximity to all kinds of distractions that will lower your attention span by changing your environment.

This will reduce the need to use willpower or to “remember it.”

It’s the same for losing weight and changing your eating habits where it’s recommended to throw out all tempting junk food.

That’s why the best way to increase your attentionspan is to reduce your proximity and exposure to your smartphone. This will remove most of the triggers that start the hooked model. 

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To do this, simply start by putting your cell phone in another room while you’re working. It will likely be difficult at first, but after a few hours, you likely won’t even remember that you don’t have it.

4. Delay Discounting

Delay discounting is a trick that Kelly McGonigal presents in her book The Willpower Instinct. It is also a mind hack recommend by behavioral scientists.

Researchers found that the longer you have to wait for a reward (e.g. checking Instagram or Twitter), the less it is worth to you[6].

Your brain chooses immediate gratification at the cost of future rewards because immediate rewards trigger the old reward system in your brain. 

To increase your attention span and delay gratification, the prefrontal cortex has to be forced to cool off the promise of the reward. Therefore, even small delays can dramatically lower the chance that you distract yourself.

It only takes a moment of resistance to stay focused. As soon as there is any distance between you and the temptation, the rational part of your brain takes over and it becomes easier to stay focused.

How to Inject a Small Pause

Put your smartphone on airplane mode and put it into another room or into a drawer.

Take note of which apps you use most often. Is it Instagram? Facebook? Youtube? Quora? Twitter? 

You know what your digital kryptonite is. 

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Ideally, when you feel the urge to check something, pause for just one second.

During this pause, simply ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this, and why?”

While this will help dramatically, you’ll see a real breakthrough when you don’t use willpower to “remember it” but to use apps to change your environment.

To do this, try the following:

Step 1: Identify Potentially Addictive Apps on Your Phone

Action Step

  1. Write down the apps that you want to use on a piece of paper.
  2. Rate the addictiveness of these apps on a scale from 1 to 10.

Use these 3 questions as guidelines to decide which websites and apps to use: 

  • What’s the best possible outcome if I stop using this app?
  • What’s the worst possible outcome if I stop using this app?
  • What’s the most likely outcome if I stop using this app?

Step 2: Block Everything That Increases Your Internet Addiction

Action Steps:

  1. Delete every app that is potentially addictive from your phone.
  2. Download apps like AppDetox and add times for apps that you have to use less often but cannot delete completely.
  3. Download the app AppLock for Android to block the play store and your internet browser.

Step 3: Prepare for Emergencies with the Password-Photo-Hack

Action Steps:

  1. Take a photo of a complicated password.
  2. Use this password in the AppLock-App.

This will force you to look at the photo and write down the complicated password with a pen and paper when you want to access a specific app or website. 

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Final Thoughts

In today’s world of constant contact with technology and social media, pausing to reflect on the way we use it and how it affects our focus and attention span is more important than ever. Analyze your distractions and act on them in order to find your focus and complete more of your important tasks.

More Tips on Learning How to Focus

Featured photo credit: David Sager via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dmitry Dragilev

Single-handedly grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views, Dmitry is a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Is It Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt? Why Being Well Rested Matters What Does Success Look Like? Revealed by 12 Highly Successful People How to Measure a Goal (With Examples of Measurable Goals) How to Focus Better and Increase Your Attention Span 5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

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Last Updated on October 19, 2021

Can You Really Get Over Cell Phone Distraction?

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Can You Really Get Over Cell Phone Distraction?

“Good morning Sir. It’s 7 a.m. The weather is going to be cool today with chances of light showers.” From this wake-up call to working, cooking, drinking your cup of caffeine-elixir, and working out, do any of these activities involve you without your cell phone?

A mere device of convenience has smoothly transformed to become a major intrusion. With cell phone distraction at bay, the increased dependence on screens has been an alarming phase for your life, maybe more than you care to admit. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if we even stated that this has become a complete addiction.

Can we really get over cell phone distraction and end this addiction?

Considering this addiction, we will be treading with caution. Let’s dive into the journey to ending cell phone distraction.

Pre-Contemplation

This is all about denial—a denial that you can’t move your screen away from your eyes, denial that you may have Nomophobia or “no mobile phone” phobia. We completely understand that. But with this stage, it is all about making you realize how strong the addiction is (maybe stronger than Biohazard’s 928mg of caffeine)!

While you might have already internalized the damage, here’s offering some help with your addiction. We would be providing you a holistic idea about the consistent pandemic called mobile distractions and guide you around with hacks to tackle the addiction.

That said, it’s time to dive into the details!

Contemplation – A Peek at Cell Phone Distraction

Look around you. Apart from the N-95 masks and frenzied use of sanitizers, what do you see in common? “Expressions projected at the screen held in front of the eyes.”

It will probably be safe to say that smartphones have become quite the companion, so much that the real companion is often ignored for the virtual ones. You must have come across many memes based on this topic.

Additionally, the terrifying statistics on your cell phone addiction are not going exactly subtle on the massacre that this distraction has become.

Here’s to give you some perspective with the numbers:

  • Average mobile phone users click, tap, and swipe their mobile phones 2,617 times a day.[1]
  • Worldwide phone users have crossed the threshold of 3 billion and are predicted to have exponential growth of several hundred million in the coming years.[2]
  • 61.20% of the globe’s population own smartphones as of September 2020.[3]

While the latter two statistics prove the rising reliance on phones, the first number is indicative of the twiddling-thumb syndrome following the addiction.

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Considering your widened eyes over the numbers, we can safely assume that you have moved on to stage 2: contemplation. This stage will let you see the change that you need to undergo to ensure a screen-free healthier lifestyle.

While we acknowledge the crucial role that screens play for some activities, we believe you can easily do away with some of these engagements, reducing the time consumed to a bare minimum.

Think of the physiological, psychological, and sociological impact. With so much at stake and the distraction breaching all ages, it is time to start on with some hacks to break up this cell phone distraction.

How to Break Up With Cell Phone Distraction

Let’s not get obvious here. We won’t tell you about the:

  • reduced attention span,
  • potential loneliness,
  • mitigating eye-health, etc.

That’s something that parents all over the globe have been putting out on banners. As a result, these facts are much likely to be considered ‘preaching.’

We, on the other hand, have a greater concern—your cell phones, most likely, are gnawing away your me-time and hence, your creative potentials. That is something that should never be compromised. Thus, it’s time you follow up on the hacks from the pros that have been proven to be effective across all ages.

Here let me fire away the life-altering, screen-shattering hacks that pose as Stage 3 Preparation and Stage 4 Action to cure your addiction:

1. Lean on an App to Track Your Daily Usage of Cell Phones

It would be safe to say that you have some tiny “time thieves” lurking in your mobile phones, crunching and munching away your precious hours. For the hacks, we start with the most convenient one—installing phone usage tracker apps.

Here is a list of the best ones for both the Android and the iOS platforms in 2020.

  • QualityTime – My Digital Diet
  • YourHour – Phone Addiction Tracker and Controller
  • Stay Focused – App Block (Control Phone Addiction)
  • Social Fever App Usage Tracker
  • PhoneUsage Tracker

With either of these apps playing the ‘personal trainer’ or referee, your hours spent on social media platforms and your phone, as a whole, are tracked down. While you check the hours for the first time, beware: the numbers may not be for the weak hearts!

2. Re-Subscribe to Your Hobbies

The price that you pay for your cell phone distraction is your growing distance from your hobbies. While you kill time with your screen-related engagements, you lose the roots of your hobbies.

So, make sure to do the following steps:

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  1. List down your hobbies.
  2. Put it up on your headboard or sticky notes.
  3. Start slow on your hobbies.
  4. Set realistic goals, dividing the time spent on your phones and your hobby.

Once you rekindle your old, highschool-sweetheart of love, the attachment with the screen will eventually wither away.

3. Take a Vow of Silence From Social Media Platforms

When was the last time you ate without taking a click or went out with your friends without hashtagging the pic on Instagram? How often do you giggle while scrolling down Facebook feeds or go ‘aww’ at the cute kitty and doggo videos?

We are guessing, a lot!

The numbers confirm our opinion. As per the World Economic Forum, Millennials spent approximately 2 hours 38 minutes and Gen Z 2 hours 55 minutes daily on social media platforms.[4]

Additionally, if you thought Covid-19 changed Ecommerce only, you are mistaken.[5] The recent pandemic state and its lockdown and social distancing have unfortunately brought you closer to your screens.

The landscape looks something like this:

    So, here is the most challenging hack of all—go nuclear on your social media apps. Before you go AWOL on us after listening to this, hear us out!

    The potential impact of social media platforms goes even beyond the mere time spent on it. You tend to take more interest in others’ lives, ending up comparing that with yours. And this, our ‘friends, Romans, and countrymen,’ has innumerable adversities.

    Remember, even if you delete the apps, you still have your accounts there. Also, if deleting it seems too much of an anxiety trigger, follow up with the time spent (using the apps on Hack 101) and put a realistic cap to it.

    4. Get Your Silent/Do Not Disturb Mode Working Occasionally

    For this hack, acknowledge first the fact that introspection or “me” time is incomparable. The diverse ringtones and tunes emerging from your cell phone are baits that will draw out hours from your life.

    While putting your phone on silent during meals or work meetings is a matter of manners, doing the same at other times means you are just prioritizing yourself. This will help you go back to your old habits and stay away from technological labyrinths.

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    5. Set a Realistic To-Do List for the Day Sans Any Screen-Involvement

    How often do we treat ourselves for a great performance at work? Maybe a pizza or a bowl of ice cream? Why don’t you do the same for your cell phone distraction?

    What you need to do is:

    1. Sit down with a daily bucket list before sleeping off at night.
    2. Make sure that the list of activities involves minimum screen time.
    3. Accomplish the listed jobs and then reward yourself with some social media scrolling.

    So, do we have a deal? Get started, ASAP!

    6. Where Have Your Books/Magazines Gone?

    Ask around, and your last generation will tell you the attraction of the tangible books—the tranquility involved in flipping the pages while your palm hugs a cup of your warm caffeine.

    With Kindles, Ipads, and tablets, that charm is long lost. However, for those looking and determined to dig away from this distraction, we suggest you try this reconnection. Reading, not on screens, but with the physical and tangible books will help you feel grounded and rekindle yet another hobby that will be responsible for your personal growth.

    So, dust the cobwebs off your bookshelf, and get your mind its treat of imagination!

    7. Go Serial Killer on Your Notifications

    Don’t get us wrong! We are not asking you to go all ‘Ted Bundy’ on your notifications but also, can you do that, please? Hear us out before freaking out completely.

    All of your sneaky apps frequently give out tiny beckonings via notifications, reminding you of their existence.

    While being notified is appreciated occasionally, it can surmount to considerable distraction if the phone goes off every 5 minutes.

    The best way out? Turn off notifications, even if for a couple of hours. You will then have the power not to be distracted from your contemporary activity and enjoy scanning through notifications at your preferred time.

    8. Get the Screen Glares Away an Hour Before Sleep

    What’s the best excuse that you put on for keeping your cell phone on your nightstand?

    Let me guess. Alarm?

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    Quit the excuse queue, your alarm clock can serve the purpose well! Additionally, you won’t have the ‘convenient access’ to your screen right before you sleep.

    Seems harsh? Follow through and you will experience a sudden and considerable improvement in your daily schedule. Without your phone in an arm’s reach from your bed, you also won’t start your day by scrolling social media feeds.

    9. Go for a Black and White Mode

    OLED or Organic Light-Emitting Diode is the latest call of the display technology in cell phones. With promises of better black themes and incredible pixel-views, the color contrast in this display is too attractive.

    However, it is this color-coding that fetches and attaches you for a longer time on your cell phones. For those seeking to get rid of your cell phone distraction, your best way forward is by opting for grayscale. This makes the screen much less desirable to look at.

    As of recent, multiple phones come with ‘bedtime mode’ that switches off the phone to grayscale mode. With the color drained from your phone, the social media platforms become immediately unattractive. In case you are seeking a reference, think of the memory Dump ground in Pixar’s Inside Out.

    10. Be Ready for the Withdrawal Symptoms

    Much like any addiction, acting on the cell phone distraction also brings in withdrawal symptoms (read up Nomophobia or “no mobile phone” phobia). While planning to leave your phone at home might seem a brave move, agitations, distractions, stressing out, and getting upset are surefire consequences.

    Considering that cell phones have become the representative for connectivity, staying away from them is a huge stress. Researchers have also gone their distance to say that compulsive cell phone behavior is a resultant of the Pavlovian conditioning system.

    The tune of cell phone notifications somehow sends a signal that some great news is on its way, and you are compelled to check your phone, considering that the notification meets up to your expectation leading to a release of dopamine into your system. With that dopamine release around, your anxiety is sure to kick in. So, prepare yourself for that!

    11. Pro Hack: Embrace Your Smart Speakers

    Do you know that grey pretty piece of technology greeting you with the weather update? Your Alexa/ Siri/Cortana/Google at play via smart speakers? They can be quite the acquaintance when you are trying to get rid of your cell phone distraction.

    Considering that you need the support of your phones to carry out daily activities, you can always rely on screen-less technology. This will help keep the smartphone away from your hands for a prolonged period.

    Final Thoughts

    Nearing the end of your addiction recovery, it’s all about maintenance and recovery. Don’t let your cellular bridles go loose thinking that you are over your cell phone distraction.

    You can always rely on the ‘hair band technique’ to keep the scrolling thumbs away. Maybe, you will be reminded that those opposable thumbs of yours can do much better—the guides of which you can find in the diverse blogs posted on the site or our social media sites.

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    What say, you game?

    More Tips to Avoid Cell Phone Distraction

    Featured photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo via unsplash.com

    Reference

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