Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 8, 2020

How to Focus Better and Increase Your Attention Span

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. 

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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. 

Advertising

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. 

Advertising

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. 

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.

How to Measure a Goal (With Examples of Measurable Goals) Is It Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt? Why Being Well Rested Matters How to Focus Better and Increase Your Attention Span 5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning 10 Employee Engagement Ideas to Improve Teamwork

Trending in Focus

1 Why You Need to Say No! More Often 2 The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life 3 How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus 4 How to Eliminate Distractions for Achieving Your Goals 5 How To Log Your Daily Activities And Manage Your Time Better

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 24, 2021

Why You Need to Say No! More Often

Why You Need to Say No! More Often

It’s so hard to say “no”.

Why?

Advertising

It makes us feel selfish, guilty, embarrassed even. We don’t want to upset people. We don’t want them to think badly of us. Sometimes it’s simply easier to say “yes,” than to deal with our angst or other people’s reactions. But what is this behavior costing us?

When we give a “yes” when there ought to be a “no”, we give away a little piece of ourselves. We relinquish our power, our control and disrespect our needs by making them less important than the needs of others. We disrespect our needs or wants by making choices that don’t support us. We justify it; it’s just this one time, it’s for a good cause, it won’t take too long, it’s not that big a deal. It is a big deal. Every time you do this, you are making a choice to ignore what your heart, your mind, or your gut is telling you.

Advertising

The Benefits of “Say No”

Advertising

  1. The Stress Factor. Saying “yes” when you really want to say “no” is a major stressor for your mind and body. It causes anxiety, tension, aches and pains, often causes us to lose sleep as well. It’s unquestionably not the lone cause of stress, but it might be among the easiest to control.
  2. Get Rid of Toxic People. You don’t really want these people in your life anyway, do you? These are advantage takers, the leechers, the complainers, the gossip-mongers, the responsibility-duckers. They are master manipulators who use guilt and manipulation to pressure you into a “yes.” If you consistently give a firm “no” they’ll eventually go away and find some other, weaker target.
  3. Save Time. We only have so many hours in the day. We can’t do anything about that, but we can control how we use that time. Don’t let others determine your to-do list or set your set agenda. You are giving away your precious time! It’s important to use your time in the way that honors your priorities, helps you reach your goals and serves your needs. You decide what’s worth your time and what’s not.
  4. More Energy. Taking on things that you don’t want to do or don’t have time for, wastes valuable energy that you could be spending on those things you do care about. Pour that energy into doing a better job on those activities that you really must do or choose to do. More energy helps you feel better, be happier, and have greater productivity.
  5. Increase Focus. Say “yes” to people and things that are relevant to your goals. Say “no” to those things take you away from your goals and make you lose your focus. Focus on those things that help you learn and grow both personally and professionally, things that spark your interests or speak to you in some way.  Whenever it’s possible, say “no” to everything else.
  6. Gain Strength. Every time you say “no” to others, you’re saying “yes” to yourself. You’re taking back control of your life by not allowing others to make decisions for you. You gain confidence when you stand firm and honor your boundaries. Surprisingly you also gain the respect. When you’re clear and firm about you will and won’t do, people actually respect you more. They may be unhappy with you, but they’ll respect you.
  7. Enjoy Life More. Life is so much more enjoyable when you begin to say “No” to things that drain you. The same is true in your work life. If you make an effort to try to limit your time and effort to work activities that enjoy or that you actually are responsible for, you’ll find that work is much more fun.

It gets easier to give the “no,” the more often you do. It’ll probably be uncomfortable for a while. We squirm at the thought of disappointing others, even when we’re letting ourselves down in the process. Your needs, your time, your goals, and what’s important in your life have to be your decision-making guides. It just takes some getting used to.

Repeat after me: “NO.” You can do it!

Advertising

Featured photo credit: Isaiah Rustad via unsplash.com

Read Next