Attention spans both in school and at work are decreasing. A study conducted by Microsoft proved that because of our increasingly digital lifestyles, people have shorter attention spans than goldfish. The study surveyed 2,000 participants and found that while they could multitask at great lengths, their attention span had fallen to an average of eight seconds. A goldfish’s attention span is nine seconds.
Attention span is defined as a period of time when a person is focused on a task. Given this new information, how do we improve our attention span? What can we do to get ourselves to focus for longer periods of time? This article will talk about insights from psychology experts on how the brain works and what we can do to improve our attention spans.
Tips to Improve Focus
Improving attention spans may seem like a daunting task, but the solutions could lie in simple changes. Lifehack provides some helpful tips on how adults can improve their focus, with one of the top tips being to determine what the important things in your life are. Once you know your goal, it becomes easier to know where to dedicate your focus. You can then break your goal down into smaller, attainable tasks that lead you towards your main objective.
Similarly, Knowbly’s Shawn Burson, Director of Learning Design, in his article titled Instructor-led to Instructor-less, suggests teachers should clearly identify the main point of the lesson and provide purposeful interactive learning when creating a lesson plan. Classroom settings also need to change in order to keep up with modern developments on decreasing attention spans.
The Connection Between Psychology and Learning
Inc.com’s feature on attention exercises shows that scientific research is increasingly being used to help improve focus. One example given is how reading longer books is proven to increase concentration compared to only reading short content (usually online). This is leading to a need for more professionals who understand how students learn, with the increasing research having a knock-on effect on the psychology profession. Maryville University reveals that there is a demand for more psychologists who understand the connection between “psychology and education." As more professionals find these connections, more changes can be implemented in the classroom. Integrating science-backed techniques for increasing focus will create a more productive workforce in the future.
While mobile devices are certainly the cause of diminishing attention spans, they could also help improve concentration if used differently. The Training Journal looked at the potential of m-learning, which is where employees and students learn directly from their phones. The tap and learn concept allows users to learn whenever they want, and the content is designed to be much shorter. This helps improve attention spans because the learners are actively engaged in choosing when and how they learn. These concepts are used increasingly in hybrid classrooms to improve equity in access for all learners and to increase engagement and retention.
The decline of individual attention spans may seem like a trivial problem, but it’s an issue that could influence how our society functions in the future. A world full of people who can’t focus on one task for long periods of time means a less productive world. Improving our attention spans through research-backed solutions may be the first step to a more industrious and capable society.