You’re busy working on a new set of code, a design template, or reviewing a brief with a hard deadline… then your phone rings. Your mom is calling for a catch-up call. As you reach for your phone, you can’t help but notice a few new notifications. Turns out your friend sent you a new Instagram Reel. You also received an email. You definitely need to check that, don’t you? To our disadvantage, there are far too many distractions within reach—mostly due to our phones. We are increasingly living in an age of short attention span, after all.
But who can we blame? We’re the ones scrolling through endless amounts of content, with new products and platforms to watch them on every day. In exchange for reading more books and spending phone-less interaction with loved ones, we’re binging entire Netflix shows in one sitting and watching 60-second TikTok videos to pass our time. Everything is essentially on-demand—why wait? Our attention span is already “on-to-the-next.”
If we’re not careful, we can continue to drastically reduce our ability to pay attention. After all, your attention span is a muscle (in your brain). Just like you would work out your abs for better stability and good posture, you should work out your attention span to operate at your maximum capacity. And that type of concentration is required for every small business owner out there because it’s not a walk in the park.
Ready to rekindle your ability to focus on your tasks? Discover the 5 ways you can improve your attention span ASAP today.
1. Move your body
Have you ever felt restless or anxious staring at the same line of code? Or stressed out working on a slide deck due the next day? Often, the lack of attention span on a task is your body’s way of telling you it needs a break.
Exercising is one of the greatest forms of break (and for more reason than just losing weight).
The single biggest benefit of exercise is increasing blood flow and raising oxygen levels in your body and most importantly, to the brain.
Be it running 6 miles or completing a 15-minute HIIT, exercise improves blood flow and memory by stimulating the chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood, and thinking. Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.
2. Set a limit on social media consumption
Get into the habit of limiting your time spent on your phone scrolling through social media. Unless you work with social media as part of your day-to-day, there’s absolutely no reason you should be spending 10+ hours a day on social media. In fact, there are ways to help limit this consumption. Here’s how:
- Set a screen time limit on your phone. You can monitor screen time on your phone to see your most-used apps, including Social. Majority of mobile phones, like iPhones and Androids, allows you to set time limit directly for your social media apps. Take advantage of this feature—you’ll be surprised at what you find!
- Set daily reminders on Instagram and Facebook. Thanks to research from mental health experts and extensive research and feedback, Ameet Ranadive (previous Product Management Director) and David Ginsberg (Director of Research) at Instagram released time management tools in 2018 to help us manage our screen time. You can set a daily reminder on Instagram and Facebook—it simply pops up when you hit your set limit to remind you to back away from your phone.
- Turn off notifications. We all need a pause from work and content consumption once in a while—it’s all about work-life harmony. Much like how you can “pause notifications” on Slack, you can turn off notifications from your social media platforms. After all, you don’t need an alert telling you that a high school friend recently posted on their story. Your time is much better spent planning Q2 for your small business instead.
3. Challenge yourself with memory exercises
Memory games, like Concentration, are great ways to improve your memory. By training your brain to remember numbers and items, you’re actively exercising the very part of your brain—the frontal lobe to be exact—that helps you pay attention.
The frontal lobe, part of the brain’s cerebral cortex, is located near the forehead and plays a vital role in motivation and memory. Even spending as little as 10-15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, on simple brain training exercises can have a profound impact on concentration.
Try these free resources for memory games that you can play:
- Pairs Ones (to play online Concentration)
- Improve Memory
- Lumosity (fun games for adults)
- Helpful Games
Don’t have time to play memory games? Not to worry. Even the most mundane tasks, like driving or online shopping, can involve memory exercise. Instead of pulling out your credit card info each time you shop, try memorizing it instead. Next time you’re driving to a friend’s house in a different neighborhood, challenge yourself to not use Google Maps. You can always look at the map prior to heading out—it’s basically the same thing!
4. Consume healthy foods over processed ones
It’s time to reduce or cut processed foods entirely out of your diet. Whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts are not only high in fiber but contain nutrients that are often not found in processed foods.
You are what you eat, right?
Foods that contain high doses of properties like protein, choline, and antioxidants are the ones you should reach for if you want to increase your attention span. These 3 key properties are great for fueling the brain and even have anti-inflammatory properties to protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Not sure where to start? Try salmon, berries, eggs, or turmeric. And for all you sweet tooths out there, you’re in luck. Dark chocolate counts too!
5. Fill the room with classical music
Next time you find yourself with a low attention span, switch the mood up. Instead of playing lyrical music, throw a classical playlist – like Mozart to fill up your room. Research has shown that listening to classical music actually helps us figure out the world around us by engaging “the areas of the brain involved with paying attention and updating the event in memory.”
6. Read more books to increase attention span
Every new year, increasing book count is always a goal that frequents most people’s resolutions. Especially in a pandemic, bookworms far and wide are making it a goal to read more books this year.
And you should too!
Reading books helps you fill the time that you otherwise would have been spending on social media. Start small: maybe one book every 2 months, then 1 book each month, and go from there. You’ll be amazed how much reading you can get done once you form the habit.
Improving attention span can be done in more ways than one
Maximizing your attention span isn’t done by snapping your fingers. It takes thoughtful planning, careful discipline, and strong-willed execution to follow through on what you eat, consume, and do in your spare time. As long as you take the time to exercise your body and brain (frontal lobe, to be specific), consumer good food and content, and curate your environment properly, your attention span won’t fail you in a time of need. Try it today—all from the comfort of your own home. You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make on your attention span.