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Published on September 3, 2020

Have Short Attention Span? 15 Ways to Improve It

Have Short Attention Span? 15 Ways to Improve It

Technology has done wonders for society. Healthcare, transportation, and communication have also improved dramatically in recent years. However, it’s undeniable that the fast-paced, convenience-oriented mindset of modern society has significantly shortened attention spans.

Some signs of a short attention span include:

  • Missing important details
  • Difficulty communicating with others
  • Not listening during meetings and lectures
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Inability to follow through with tasks

In some rarer cases, short attention spans are caused by medical conditions such as ADHD.[1] More commonly, it’s a lack of focus derived from the modern world trying to pry our attention away at every waking moment.

If any of these signs are a common occurrence in your life, you might need to tighten that attention span of yours. These 15 ways can help you improve your focus so you can better seize every moment.

1. Curb Your Screen Time

It’s already been determined that electronics are causing many to lose focus. The easy access to social media sites, online videos, and endless web pages can spin our minds in constant circles. There are almost too much information and entertainment for us to handle.

Have you ever been sidetracked by a simple Facebook notification? To get your screen time under control, take your cue from kids’ phones.[2] Delete social media apps and games from your phone. Stick to texting and calling.

2. Remove Distractions

Your mobile device won’t be the only thing calling for your attention. Any number of distractions can squeeze your attention. Figure out what they are, and you can work on removing them.

Even minor distractions, such as background noise or a room that’s too hot or cold, can make you fidgety and cause you to lose focus. Items cluttering your desk and workspace can cause anxiety and divert your attention even for just a second, which is just enough to break your rhythm.

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3. Take Notes

If you find yourself in a particularly boring meeting or classroom environment, you may as well be begging for something to distract you. This attitude carries over to even the most important of meetings, where you could miss vital information.

To change this mindset, start taking notes. This activity demands your focus, which will help with that short attention span. Taking notes also improves memory, helps your brain recall specifics, and provides physical reminders for those important details you need to keep handy.

4. Drink More Water

Staying hydrated is of utmost importance to your physical health. It also helps you combat a short attention span. Dehydration eats away at your focus and ability to think. Even the slightest amount of dehydration can make a significant difference.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. The key is drinking consistently, not just guzzling an entire bottle right before you need to focus. Develop a habit and you’ll never have to worry about dehydration getting in your way.

5. Get Some Exercise

Exercise is beneficial in so many ways. Taking care of your body helps you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Helping improve your focus and attention span is some of the many benefits of regular exercise.

There’s no need to add hours of rigorous activity to your schedule. If you’re just getting into the exercise game, an e-bike might be just the boost you need. Even a short walk can get your blood moving and brain activated. Outdoor exercise is especially beneficial, as the sunshine and sights of nature do wonders for your brain and psyche.

6. Try Meditating

The complete opposite of exercise is doing nothing. Meditation isn’t sitting there idle—it’s an alternate way to try and regain your focus. It involves a series of short steps to calm you down, increasing your attention span.

Most forms of meditation require a calm atmosphere coupled with breathing exercises. The extra oxygen stimulates your brain, and the cadence of breaths helps you to relax and reclaim your mind.

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On a particularly difficult day, give meditation a try. Find a private place, turn on some calming sounds, and enjoy the peace your brain deserves.

7. Take a Break

When it all gets to be too much, give yourself a much-deserved break. While mediation is a conscious effort to regain focus, stepping back to just get away for a few moments can also work wonders.

If your focus keeps getting drawn elsewhere, take some time to address it before returning to your original task. Whether it be a five-minute break for fresh air or a three-day weekend in the woods, giving yourself a “brain break” can help you regroup and buckle down on your goals.

8. Chew Gum

It’s odd but it’s true: Chewing gum can help you focus.[3] While it doesn’t have any magical properties, this simple activity can keep you engaged long enough to carry out an activity without getting too distracted.

Ever popped in a piece of gum to stay awake on the road? The same goes for focusing at work. If you find your mind slipping during the workday, try a piece of gum. This could be the push you need to dig in and complete a difficult task or make it to the end of the day.

9. Stop Multitasking

A lot of people pride themselves in their ability to multitask. While this is a valuable skill, constantly dividing your attention between several tasks can do a number on your attention span.

When you feel yourself starting to slip, stop multitasking for a moment. Force yourself to slow down and focus. Some days, you’re just not going to have the attention span to tackle multiple projects effectively at the same time. It’s OK in those moments to take one task at a time.

10. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain is at its wit’s end. It’s incredibly hard to focus on something when all your mind and body want to do is sleep. To improve your attention span, make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep every night.

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Develop a consistent sleep schedule that helps you get to bed at a decent time each night. This will help you stay well-rested each day. Too little sleep stretches you thin, while too much can make you feel groggy and sluggish. Both are extremes that you’ll want to avoid.

11. Turn the Music Up

Music can be distracting for some, but for others, it allows them to focus better. A good playlist can act as a pair of blinders, filling your mind so that distractions can’t get in your way.

The best kind of music for your attention span is instrumental. Lyrics can crowd your thoughts and compete for your attention span. Calm genres, such as classical, are better than upbeat ones that can work you up too much when you need to buckle down and focus.

12. Practice Active Listening

While this is more of a soft skill than the others on this list, being able to listen is an underrated practice. Too often people think about what to say next instead of listening to what is being said to them.

Failure to listen is a classic sign of a short attention span. The next time you engage in a conversation, practice listening intently to every word that’s said. This will lead to healthier dialogue and help you improve that attention span by keeping you grounded to the present.

13. Experiment With Timeboxing

Timeboxing is a time management method used by many business professionals.[4] It involves blocking off a section of time to dedicate to a specific activity.

When the block starts, all you worry about is what you have scheduled for that time. When the block ends, you move on to the next time block.

This method can help you maintain focus throughout your day. Use it wisely, and you’ll be able to control your attention span and maximize your productivity.

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14. Try Intermittent Fasting

Periodic fasting is a practice embraced by many world religions. While it has its spiritual connotations, it’s also a recognized method to help with weight loss, cleansing, and yes—increased focus.

Fasting should be done smartly. Don’t go without food for too long or too often—you still need that energy to properly function. Balance your intermittent fasting, and those periods of time can help you clear your mind and take hold of your attention span.

15. Play Some Brain Games

Your brain is a muscle—if you want to strengthen it, you need to use it in different ways. If your goal is to improve your attention span, you can play some brain games that are built to help with that.

Rather than mind-numbing video games, look for puzzles and activities that help improve your focus and attention. Simple exercises, such as math, patterns, and memorization, don’t take much time, but repetition can really make a difference.

Final Thoughts

If having a short attention span is negatively affecting your work and personal life, it’s time to change it. Following these 15 tips will help you improve your focus and attention span.

Tackle your focus issues one day at a time. Patience and practice are all it takes to build a longer, more durable attention span.

More for Improving Your Focus

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

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Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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