Increasing Your Attention Span

When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.Michael Leboeuf

You ever find yourself struggling to pay attention to something important?  Maybe you’re sitting in class listening to your professor or teacher talk and your mind just starts to drift.

Here’s one that happens to me quite often; you’re reading a book and suddenly you start thinking about something, but you’re still reading the words on the page.  By the time you realize that you’re not actually paying attention to what you’re reading, you’ve already read through two pages and absolutely nothing written on them has sunk in.

Well, there’s a way to prevent that from happening to you all the time.  If your trouble is focus, this will help.

Practice makes perfect

I know, I know how ridiculous it sounds.  I know that it sounds too easy, but the truth is that practice makes perfect, even when it comes to trying to focus.  It sounds like buffoonery, (Fantastic word, buffoonery.) but I’m telling you, it works.

When I was little I was given a test to find out whether or not I was diagnostically ADD.  I can’t remember the exact scale they used, but for the sake of argument let’s just say that it was a scale out of a hundred.  After taking the tests, if you ranked above 80 on this scale you were technically considered to have ADD.  So, I took the tests as a child and I ranked a whopping 78.  Two points below being classified as someone who has ADD and thus not qualifying for any of the ‘assisstance’ they give to students at that age who have ADD.

My point here is that if anyone knows how to deal with a lack of focus on their own, it’s me.

So, how do you practice increasing your focus?  It’s simple in theory, but difficult in practice.  Whenever you find your attention dwindling at an activity you feel you should continue doing you need to push yourself to concentrate on it for a little while longer than you normally would.  That’s it.  Just keep focusing for longer than you normally would, even if that’s only for a couple of minutes, and you’ll end up increasing your attention span.

As I said, it’s harder than it sounds.  When you get to the point where your attention is dissipating it’s a real struggle to force yourself to keep paying attention.  So when you first start to practice you’re probably only going to be able to hold your attention for maybe a minute or two longer than you normally would.  That’s okay though, it still helps.

The more you hold your attention on something you don’t want to be holding your attention on anymore, the easier it will become.  Soon you’ll be able to go for five extra minutes before you can’t stand it anymore.  Then ten.  Then you’ll be able to do it for half an hour.

Eventually you’ll find that that itch you get when you’re dying to do something else just won’t bother you like it used to.  You’ll find that you can put that desire away and focus until you decide on doing something else.

Things you can practice focusing on

The list of things you can practice focusing your attention on are virtually limitless.  Skills that you’re trying to develop are usually great candidates, as it can often be quite boring trying to force yourself to continue practicing when you feel like you’re not getting much better.

The two best methods I’ve found are reading and meditation.

I like to read, but as I mentioned before I used to quite often find myself reading up to five pages and realizing I hadn’t absorbed a word I’d been reading.  Then I want to just put the book down because I can’t seem to concentrate on it.

Instead of doing that though, when it happens to you, try just flipping back and re-reading.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find that it’s harder than you thought it would be to go back through and read when your mind is clearly elsewhere.  Just force yourself to re-read the section you couldn’t concentrate on at first and then feel free to put the book down.  It’s brutal, but it works.

The key here is to always be pushing the limits of your attention a little bit further.  So that as you’re developing a better attention span, you’re still trying to push yourself past your new limits.  In that way it’s a lot like working out:  You always have to lift slightly more than you’re comfortable with in order to make any sort of muscle gain.  It’s the same with your attention span.  You always need to force yourself to concentrate a little bit longer than you normally would.

Which is why I find meditation to be such a good method of practicing concentration.  If you’re not familiar with meditation, I can describe it fairly quickly:

Meditation is, essentially, the act of sitting quietly by yourself and trying to quiet your thoughts.  So that the voice you have constantly narrating your life inside your head is silent.  You’d think it would be pretty easy to turn that little guy/girl off but when you actually attempt it, it’s incredibly difficult.

The reason meditation is so great for increasing your attention span is because really all meditation is is the act of focusing.  And what better way to increase your focus than to do nothing but foucs?

If you’re interested in meditation but this is the first time you’ve heard of it, there are lots of great resources online that will introduce it better than I have and explain how to meditate.  I’m sure a quick search on google will you tell you everything you need to know if you’re interested.

Perhaps I’ll write an article about it in the future, but for now no such article exists, so you must venture out beyond the bounds of this site in order to retrieve the information.  Horrifying, I know.

Anyway, meditation aside, it doesn’t really matter what you choose to focus on.  I have favourites just like you have favourites (Or will have favourites if you’ve never tried this before.)  The idea is just to practice, practice and practice some more.

I know it seems like an unlikely solution, but you can take my word for it that it works.  I mean, I managed to focus for long enough to put up this website and write all these articles for you, right?  Right.  So it clearly works.  (See what I did there?)

Just remember when you’re forcing yourself to pay attention for that little bit longer that it pays off in the end.  And, just like I said in Take the Time to Learn, it pays off for the rest of your life.

3 Responses to “Increasing Your Attention Span”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Motivology Matters, Thomas James. Thomas James said: Increasing your atten– #attention #motivation #inspiration [...]

  2. it was very interesting to read
    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

    • Tom says:

      Sure you can, I just ask that you link back to me when you quote.

      My account on twitter is implicateevo. I’ve added a twitter widget on the sidebar so you can follow it easily if you want to.

  3. cna training says:

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  4. [...] wrote a big fat article on just this, feel free to check it out: Increasing Your Attention Span | Implicate Evolution I basically give really small, simple steps that help you increase your attention span in general, [...]

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