Once your tooth enamel is gone, it’s gone, right? And, aloha, knee cartilage and last year’s tax return. Some days, when I am a particularly awful parent, I may or may not mention to my boys who have each other in headlocks, that I wish my bucket of patience was bottomless, but alas it is not, and they are down to the last precious drops. Only by the grace of God can I ever get more from that bucket, and I usually have to give myself a timeout in my quiet bedroom to find it.
There is something else I’ve been missing for a while: my attention span. I’m hoping to rebuild it and the upper arm strength I had for those few minutes when I was carrying around big giant boy babies and all their stuff.
Maybe I’ve romanticized it, but I’m absolutely positive I used to have a big hardy, healthy attention span that let me start and finish books, craft projects, emails and folding a load of dryer fresh laundry. When I was a kid, I could finish a Sweet Valley High book in one sitting, and I could play any imagination game for hours, stopping only to eat meals as mandated by law. Sadly, today, I wasn’t able to write this paragraph without taking two snack breaks, loading the dishwasher, and watching three movie trailers, which are basically three tiny movies the exact right length for an equally tiny attention span.
I’ve deduced that my attention span, and maybe yours too, was offed Murder-on-the-Orient-Express style. (Spoiler alert) Demanding Parenthood, Grandpa Internet and spoiled-rotten grandchildren Pinterest and Facebook, co-dependent Smartphone, that skank MTV, sneaky Sleep Deprivation, jealous Work, slothy Sub-par Diet, and that reigning queen bee-word, Just Too Busy, worked together to murder my poor unsuspecting attention span, without even the perk of a cool train ride or a visit from Hercule Poirot.
Long ago, when I had the attention span to sit down and read books about life on the prairie, I learned that the to-do lists of old timey prairie folks put my lists to shame: milk cows; sweep dirt floors; pack lunch buckets; darn socks, bonnets and those long johns with the bottom flaps; churn butter; tend gardens; raise babies; stoke fires; ride two days to town in a wagon, and then when all of that is done, sit down at like, 6:00 pm to read books, tell stories, and thank God for the glory of another day on the prairie. I would close these books exhausted, and thank God for the blessing of another day not spent on the prairie.
Our generation didn’t invent laundry, kids, jobs, homemade meals, soccer or even pianos. As much as we forget, our parents had stuff to do, too. Once upon a time, we were the kids with homework, music lessons, and Girl Scouts. My mom was known to careen around town in our huge Chrysler Cordoba, while wearing suntan nylons and heels, delivering forgotten lunches, shuttling me to birthday parties, chaperoning field trips, combing my hair to make sure my ears didn’t show, teaching Sunday School, and ironing every piece of material in the house, before racing back to her job. She didn’t even have anywhere to post her blog called “1980’s Problems, Am I Right?” She just got up and did it all again the next day. And today she graciously helps me, listens sympathetically when I am overwhelmed, and never once tells me to just get a grip already, though perhaps she should.
I’m afraid we’ve taken perfectly good things like sports, cooking, and volunteering, and in an effort to improve on them, somehow screwed them up, just a little. We have picked lots of very worthy things to do and worry about, and we’ve tried to be amazing at all of them. And if it turns out we were terrible, we have even found the need to make our terribleness amazing because that’s authentic, and vulnerable and a show of solidarity with all the other mothers who deprived their kids of a Pinterest-worthy 31-day Halloween experience.
We have spun ourselves to the edge and I have the attention span to prove it. I’d like to be amazing and fix it.
If you’re looking for tips on increasing your attention span, the last place you should go is the rabbit hole that is the Internet, which is exactly what I did. One second I’m reading on-topic tips, the next I’m reading about fall’s hot new nail colors, and recipes for cauliflower soup.
When I did get back to reading, I realized after many how-to articles, that the recipe for improving your attention span is the same as it is for improving your skin and overall health: plenty of sleep, a healthy diet rich in omega-3s, turn off the TV and computer (and phone!) way before bedtime, and limit caffeine. For your skin, drink more water and wear sunscreen. For your attention span, try setting an alarm, and don’t change tasks until the alarm sounds, giving yourself longer and longer goals, until you are so well trained, you will drop whatever you doing and change tasks at the sound of any bell.
I think I’ll start with crossing something off my list without actually having done it (It will feel so bad, but so good), putting away my phone, going to bed, and telling my mom how much I appreciate her. I’ll let you know how it goes.
It’s no secret that attention span problems plague our youth in very serious ways, with concerning consequences, and a bevy of controversial remedies. I worry about my kids, and all the kids who at much younger ages are dealing with the same societal factors that have to be slowly but surely chipping away at the patience, attention spans, and sanity that are tucked away in our fully formed adult brains. We’re not equipped to help them cope, if we can’t cope either.
154 thoughts on “The Incredible Shrinking Attention Span”
Ahhhhhh, no wonder my attempt at re-reading My Antonia is now approaching day 987. Really, really funny. You have a such a gift for making all of our doubts and insecurities seem so normal, human. I always enjoy reading.
Danielle!! Thank you for your incredibly sweet note – made me get a little misty! I finally had to give up on The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo; I had to go to books that are pretty much essay collections -the People Magazine of books. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to leave me a note! xoxo
My Antonia is really great book. Especially the widow who tries to hide the cow, and gives the great Bohemian treat to her caring neighbors, dried mushrooms. Worth the attention span when you realize sex and violence do not have to be in a novel to make it great. And the absence doesn’t mean a boring first person account of getting dried mushrooms from a bag in the back of a closet.
You said it all so well! Maybe we all just need to forgive ourselves and each other for not being perfect. Do your best and forget the rest…. My favorite saying. Anyways… You clearly have the writing thing down perfectly.. Even if it came with a few breaks!
Thank you Sheila!! I think you are absolutely right – I love, love, love your favorite saying, and think i should probably share that with my boys.
Thank you so much for reading and for your sweet note, and insight! xoxo
Thanks for this Colleen. Tonight, I will turn off the computer at least an hour before bedtime. BTW read this entire post in one sitting!
Greg, thank you for your note and for reading (and in one sitting, no less)! I’m eating almonds this morning instead of Halloween candy, hoping that might help too. Worth it? We’ll see. Let me know if you stumble on any other ideas. thanks again!
those neat devices we thought would save us time have managed to clutter our lives. WWJD?
I know! How did we used to waste time? I honestly can’t remember! thanks for reading Glenn!
I like the idea of deciding to do some things “just well enough”… even “borderline poorly.” For example I no longer match socks. It’s a time suck. Instead, all the socks go into one laundry basket, and the family forages whenever they need to match a pair. It’s a subtle rebellion…
Oooooh, I like your sock strategy. I think my boys are old enough to forage. Thanks for the tip and thanks for reading! xoxo
I am right there with you! I have noticed that my attention span is that of a gnat. And I can’t stand gnats (but, geez, they are quick little annoyances!) I tried to begin the Game of Thrones books, but I have no idea where I left the first one nor do I have the motivation to go and look for it. I guess I will just check Facebook instead! 😉
ha! I love that you can’t find the Game of Thrones book. I went to the library yesterday in the throes of my frustration with my attention span. I hope I don’t lose those library books. thanks for reading!
Another great blog! And, regarding the sock matching, we once saw a home where there was a pile of socks that covered the middle of the room and was about two feet tall, these people wanted to house a foreign exchange student for a program we worked with. The whole house looked like something the Addams family might have inhabited. Do you believe we would subject anyone to live in this nightmare of a house? We didn’t.
That’s scary, Catherine. I won’t be housing any exchange students anytime soon!
Reblogged this on Leave It Be.
I just reblogged this one.
This is so true.
Oh, cool, thank YOU!
I agree, there is so much truth in this post! Great perspective – it hits so close to home.
Thanks so much for reading and for your nice note!
Recognizing there is a problem is a great step in fixing it. If we all could recognize just one problem in our lives, admit that it is a problem, and then work to remedy it, we would definitely go a long way towards improving our lives (and, consequently, the lives of those we cherish most in our lives – our children). Train them up in the right way and they will do the same whether they realize it or not.
Exactly! Thank you! (and thanks for reading)
Check the label on your Attention Span. Most likely the Attention Span you describe above was made in China and purchased at Wal Mart….Right? Years ago, Attention Spans were Made in America by Union Labor. They came with the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Does yours have that? At a minimum, a good quality Attention Span has the following characteristics:
1. It is resistant to fracking. When you turn it on, natural gas doesn’t fill up your bedroom.
2. It reduces its speed to 20 mph in school zones. The little critters at play there aren’t allowed to have personal Attention Spans until they’re 18.
3. It can misquote Shakespeare without giggling.
I suggest you donate your current Attention Span to Good Will for the tax deduction and find a union-made Attention Span. There was one on Antiques Roadshow a few weeks ago.
yowzers, I guess mine’s a lemon, thanks for the tip (and for reading!)
This was a great post; I’m sure it resonates with everyone who’s willing to be honest with themselves. I abandoned Facebook about a year ago. I watch zero TV. I limit my internet time to brief surfings during my “mini breaks” at work and the few minutes I have after breakfast each morning. I refuse to own a smartphone (and I say this without the slightest bit of pretension, I simply can’t justify spending the money). All these savvy things I’ve done to improve my focus and free up my leisure time, and yet I still feel I’m perpetually behind… and to think, I’m not a parent! I do think that lengthening your attention span has more to do with self-discipline than anything else, and — just like sleep deprivation — allowing your attention to be so needlessly subdivided and truncated becomes a self-defeating habit. Here’s hoping you can improve your attention/focus, although reading your post makes me wonder how dangerous a mind you’d be if you succeed. Great post. Congratulations!
Apparently, Jason and I have been separated at birth. Except, he turned out much cuter and I never actually opened a Facebook account.
Thank you! Thanks so much for reading, your kind words, and your thoughts on this. There are so many factors, that I’m trying the re-training on just a couple of things at a time – better (brain) food choices, and looking at my phone less. I hate that eating almonds instead of chips is easier than not looking at my phone. Thanks again for reading!
there’s a hole in my bucket, dear liza…. excellent post!
Ha, I love it! Thank you!
I love your post. Very relatable and funny! Good to know I’m not the only one with many of those thoughts!
Thank you so much!! And it is nice to know we’re not alone in this.
Wait, what? Oh, yeah, I was going to point out how attention can be carefully trained via meditation and simple neurolinguistic techniques to focus on whatever you–
Ha, a shiny squirrel perhaps ;)! And oh, yes, meditation! A great tool – hard to do, right? But totally worth the time. I’m really inspired to give it another shot. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to leave a note!
You hit it right on the head! U have been mulling over my decreased attention span and inability to focus for the past few weeks. I definitely blame technology… and myself for not knowing when to put it down. Or WORSE, knowing and not doing it anyway.
Ok. Now I’m going to be productive and go do laundry 😉
Thank you for your note! And not just because it reminded me that I have a load of wet towels that need to go into the dryer, but it does make me feel less alone! I have felt this way for a while, but it just seems so much worse, for me and for everyone else. I’ll drive by a bus stop, and there are 20 people staring into their phones, and nobody’s looking around at what a beautiful day it is. Such a hard habit to break! Thanks for reading!
Lol you’re welcome!
oh, and thanks for the re-blog!
Reblogged this on Meals, Deals, & 31 Thrills and commented:
I love this post. I have been noticing lately that my attention span and focus is not what it used to be. Time to recheck priorites! Make a daily list and really, REALLY follow it till it’s complete. And only THEN pick up the distracting phone/internet/music player/recipe organizer/hair demo-er/messager/time stealer.
Great post and so apropos! I’ve been struggling (in my head) lately with my attention span or vanishing attention span and often wondered how many other people actually gave this any thought. Glad to see you have :-)!
Thanks so much for reading and for your sweet note. You are absolutely not alone. Now if we could work together to get our collective attention spans back, that would be great! 🙂
Awww shucks and you’re most welcome! Yes on my unattentive attention span…it needs other likeminded folks to play with lol! Thanks for sharing!
Hurray! I’m not alone in having the attention span of a goldfish (a goldfish with internet, three kids, and the organisational skills of an amoeba.) Brilliant post – and congrats on the Freshly Pressed. I’ll be taking all your advice – I’m off to bed now, that’s a good start.
So true, “the rabbit hole that is the Internet.” Millions of bits of distraction.
yet I constantly think I can pop in there for just a second. There needs to be a shock feature or something if we stay on too long, or click into some other link. thanks for reading!
Very funny!! Some days (the ones when I have not done one teeny tiny thing on my to do list but have been busy doing doing — what? I may not be able to remember), I’ll add something I DID do to my list just so I can cross it off!!
I totally do that too, and I know we are not alone! I like to tell myself, “what if I forget that I did that thing tomorrow? I can look back and see it crossed off, and then that will really end up saving me time.” It’s a little convoluted, but it makes it feel very logical. Thanks so much for reading and for your note.
Everything you said… PLUS a dose of chemo-brain on top, which has nuked my memory, attention space and spatial awareness too. I know it’s time for bed when I’m standing there with socks in my hand and can’t work out what to do with them. Very well written….
Oh, wow, I can only imagine. I hope that one day soon you will always totally know what to do with your socks. Prayers and good wishes to you through your treatment. Thanks so much for reading and for your kind note!
Apparently we all now live in an era of CPA…continuous partial attention. Which means no one is ever really paying attention to anyone for very long. Which is really depressing.
I went for a walk the other day (I have no kids, makes it easier) for 90 minutes, alone. No phone, no music. Spent 30 minutes looking at all the cool detritus on the beach…the edge of the Hudson, about 30 miles north of Manhattan. There was a whole world there: bits of early porcelain, bricks, minuscule spiders scurrying….I watched cyclists and runners whizzing by, as if this amazing place was just a cartoon backdrop. Sad.
Attention is a muscle. Use it or lose it
Oh, wow. I totally love that, and your walk sounds amazing. Attention IS a muscle – beautifully put. I’m so thankful I get motion sick looking at a book or my phone on the bus or a train. I get to see so many cool things just looking out the window. I love it, and then I get all snobby and feel sorry for the poor saps on their phones and all that they are missing. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful note!
I leave my phone at home a lot. I really enjoy just looking at stuff…and wonder how many people even notice the world anymore. Sad.
Good read until that preachy last paragraph.
Thanks. That was a great comment, until that preachy part at the end. I do appreciate you reading though!
Funny! Seriously. Just some honest criticism; take it or leave it.
Fair enough. That paragraph, different in tone I know, is an acknowledgement that, though I poke fun at my own attention problem (that I am truly, actively trying to work on) I know that many kids/families, many who are friends, struggle with attention deficiencies in real, frustrating, un-funny ways. OK, maybe it was preachy just a little – it would be pretty amazing if we can all put down our phones for a few minutes. Our kids are watching us not watching them.
Also, ” attention span problems” deserves a hyphen for being a compound adjective.
This is excellent. You are hilarious. My mom wore suntan hose, and our ears were a continuous source of shame. Now I have to continue ignore my children and skim thorough so many more of your posts.
Wow! Thank you so so much; your note cracked ME up! I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to leave me such a funny note. I hope you find more posts you like, and I look forward to checking out your blog as well!
YES! Thanks for saying this, I feel the same, I think about the email I need to write for 5-10 minutes. Then when I finally start to write it, I get through about 3 lines before I’m back on the internet.
That is it exactly. When it felt like a short email was a multi-step tedious task, I think I realized I’d hit rock bottom. I went to the library this week to get some real books, but there they sit. stupid Internet. Thanks for reading, and taking the time to leave a note. And good luck with the ol’ attention span!
I actually used to think all this, too. Then I stopped my diet of “healthy whole grains” and low-fat junk when I realized how I’d been misled about nutrition my whole life. Within a month, all the attention span and other “aging” issues that I’d blamed on Google and age were gone. It’s worth exploring–I’m telling you.
Oh I believe it. I’ve been reading a lot about brain healthy foods. I’m at least trying to sub in the healthier snacks during the day. Even after just a few days, I find I’m craving more of those than the junky stuff during the day. It’s small, but it’s a start. I may expand that! Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts!
I believe that our generation’s attention spans are so short because we constantly feel the need to check our phones. We never want to miss out on anything happening with our friends and when our phones are by our sides we are constantly in the loop. Today my phone broke. It still vibrates letting me know I’m getting a call or text but the screen is completely black and I have no way of fixing it until tomorrow. At first I freaked out, I’m away at school and it seemed like not being connected with my friends and family was the worst possible thing that could happen, but I’m actually focusing on my work and getting things done. Maybe if we it wasn’t for our need to be constantly connected out attention spans would be longer.
I agree totally. I think it was getting bad for a while, but then the smartphones really expedited the process of brain rot. Did you see where there was a bus full of people in San Francisco, all with their face in their phones, and not one person noticed this guy flashing a gun around. That guy went on to kill one of the unsuspecting passengers as he stepped out into the street. I mean that’s an extreme case, but we see it all the time, right? Life is actually passing us by while we stare at our phones. So yes, let’s consider it an ok thing that yours broke for a little while! When I freak out about leaving my phone at home, or in the other room, I remember that at one point, once you stepped out of the house, you were kind of free. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to leave a thoughtful note! good luck with school!
🙂 Thanks for reading!
Jigsaws. It’s not a swear word. We did them as children. We did them as a family. And then I tried to be cool and lost the plot. Now I’m back into the habit and, can you believe it, my old memory is improving. Attention span is about focus. Try a jigsaw and watch how it just sucks you in.
I did a puzzle this summer – and I sat in the same chair for DAYS. (I even wrote a post about it!) Sure, I kind of ignored the kids, and almost forgot to feed them, but that was probably the most focused i’ve been in years. I haven’t had the heart to take it apart, and it’s kind of an eyesore, but maybe I’ll take it apart, and do it again. Or maybe get a smaller, less insane one. I love that you brought that up, thank you! And thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a fun note!
THank you for reading and taking the time to let me know!
Awesome post. I believe that’s why yoga has become so popular. The yogis call this state inaction in action – the mind is still while the body is moving. It’s great some schools are introducing it too. What better skill to learn for life than to focus and calm the monkey mind? 🙂
Ooooh, yes. There are yoga mats with people attached to them walking all around our neighborhood – and they usually are not staring into their phone when they leave class, they look so happy! I need like yoga-for-people-with-bad-knees, or maybe just some meditation. Something! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave a nice note!
suntan nylons! Oh boy, did those 2 words bring back memories, of my Mom, of my own outfits for office work, for a particular shade of awful clinging second skin that invariably got a run up the back of it in the middle of the day…
hahaha! I’m so glad other folks remember those nylons. She would buy stacks of them when they were on sale! Thanks so much for reading and leaving a note! Suntan nylons forever! (not really)
Reblogged this on touchdownohio and commented:
How much I enjoyed your blog! Attention span deficit is pervasive among humans of all ages. We need to fight back our ability to focus and concentrate. So well written! Thank you.
THank you for reading and leaving such a lovely note!
Great post! I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and just wrote about the fact that I’m always interrupted, and can never get anything done. And it’s all parenting! I guess our mothers were probably distracted and complained in their own way about it rather than blogging about it. I’ll have to ask my mom….bet the answer on how mom’s in past-generations coped would be interesting. Thanks for your post!
Thank you! As I was finishing that post while the kids were home (which I normally don’t do), I tried to keep my patience with my own little one, and it was hard. The irony was not lost on me. I have been thinking about what I was like when my mom was trying to do stuff, which was always. Yes, very interesting indeed. Thanks for reading and leaving such a nice note!
Really enjoyed reading thru this article…am going to recommend your remedies to almost all of my technology crazy friends
Thanks! Oh my gosh, the phone in particular is such a struggle for me. I almost wished it gave me a little buzzy shock every time I pick the darn thing up. Thanks so much for reading and leaving a nice note!
This was a very good post. I am 59 years old, so most of my formative years occurred long before the internet, yet I caught up fast. The internet, plus a job that demands that I read tons of stuff in a relative hurry, has destroyed my attention span.
Thank you for reading and for your nice note! Ugh, hopefully yours isn’t gone forever. I’m really counting on the fact that we can rebuild them. I’m really working on not looking at my dumb phone so much. I hate it but feel lost with out it. sigh. Good luck to you and thanks again!
Gosh, my attention span started wandering half way down your comments list, I wanted to go off and see what some of these people were posting about, but then as you say, before you know it you are looking at a recipe for cauliflower soup (which is truly disgusting, by the way) and have locked yourself out of wordpress. So I steeled myself for all of what, ten seconds, and I’ve got here, which is pretty amazing. Great read, thanks.
hahahaha! First of all, have you made the cauliflower soup. I’ve had it in a restaurant and loved it, but am terribly afraid, i will make something that resembles , well, never mind. I do have a head of it sitting in my fridge, waiting to be made into the stuff. Anyway, thank you so so much for reading, and even coming back to it! I’m honored, and then you went and left such a nice note. Thank you! Good luck to you too. (oh, and to summarize some of the good ideas so you don’t have to read – more books, puzzles, meditation, yoga, healthy eating, and getting rid of technology altogether.) 🙂
cauliflower cheese, tick; cauliflower in a curry, tick; cauliflower soup, bleeeeaaargh. Mind you I only had it once, made for me by a friend, whose wife refused to touch it. Wise woman.
It seems we are on the same boat. Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google making us stupid” made me realize i was not alone in the boat a while ago, and recently decided to fight it. Not much success so far, but war ain’t over yet! Nice post.
Oh, I’ve got to track down that article, thanks! Seeing so many people respond even to my little post, was very affirming that I wasn’t alone in this, but also a little scary that as a society, we are really doing ourselves a disservice. Keep up the good fight, and I will try as well. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave a thoughtful note!
Brilliant post! Yes I think we should all get ontop of smart phone addiction. Check out my post “Is your smart phone making you dumb?” http://sevennotesofgrace.com/2013/09/27/is-your-smart-phone-making-you-dumb/
Wow! Thank you! And I will check out your post, thanks. I’m absolutely positive my smartphone is making me dumb. I’ve really tried to stay away from it – I even try to leave it in the other room as much as possible – but now I’m wasting even more time, constantly walking to the other room to get it. Thanks for reading and for your note!
Thanks. Yes I’ve been doing that too and then almost feel guilty that people have been waiting for my responses. Silly really.
I think my last comment may have disappeared…..working on a Smart phone! Brilliant post….check out this one at my blog: http://sevennotesofgrace.com/2013/09/27/is-your-smart-phone-making-you-dumb/
Found your other comment – sorry, don’t know how I missed it. Thanks again!!
I didn’t have an attention span large enough to read that
ha. I totally understand.
It’s definitely worth spending time concentrating on growing your attention span – with a longer attention span it’s possible to immerse yourself in a task and time flies and it feels so good! (Psychologists call this “flow” and it’s a great pathway to happiness and feeling fulfilled …)
ooooooh, flow, I like that. I’m really really working on that. I’m trying to keep it quiet around the house and force myself to finish a task before I do something else. I find that I can’t even blow dry my hair without stopping to do stupid stuff a million times. It’s so hard, but I know it’s possible, now. Thank you! Flow…love it.
I learnt about it at uni, and blogged about it recently: http://www.effectiveenterprise.co.nz/parenting/searching-for-happiness-find-your-flow/ Love finding flow 🙂
Posts like this make me wonder if the stresses and distractions of the modern world are levelling the field for those of us who have always struggled to pay attention (except when we are engrossed in an activity, conversation or book we really enjoy).
I used to regularly read Agatha Christie novels in one go. Apparently the large number of suspects and plots etc in her novels has a hypnotic effect. Maybe the same occurs with all of the ‘characters’ you mention in your own version of Murder on the Orient Express? It takes real strength of mind to resist this!
(e.g. Excerpt from http://www.christiemystery.co.uk/method.html: “…a person’s conscious mind has a very limited focus, and can only focus on between five and nine things at one time. Once there are more than nine things to focus on, the conscious mind can’t continue to track them all, and so the person literally goes into a hypnotic trance. … As the reader’s mind gets overloaded, they start to begin really experiencing the book, feeling the book, and getting lost in it.”
Interesting question, and point – it explains a lot. It looks like this is a collective struggle that’s probably here to stay. thanks for reading and for taking the time to leave me such a thoughtful note!
Interesting blog. Have a look at a book from Nicholas Carr called “The Shallows – How the Internet is changing the way we think, read & remember”.
someone else mentioned him – I will take a look for his work! thanks for reading, for the thoughtful note, and for the suggestion!
Fabulous advice, richly delivered.
This post is spot on. In addition to finding ways to gain back our attention span, I think it’s important for society to reconsider certain structures that rely on a developed attention span. As a member of Generation Y and as a teacher, I find myself stuck between acceptance of our loss of attention span and frustration with its limitations in the classroom and beyond. Shorter attention spans are a reality we cannot hope to eradicate, and believe it or not, people are getting more and more intelligent. So while I endorse the attempt to increase our attention span and do so myself, I also believe that society needs to accommodate what technology has brought about. I think we need to make an earnest effort to adapt education to students, rather than adapting them to existing pedagogical strategies. Classes need to be shorter, assignments need to involve interference, activities need to allow for fluid transitions between stimuli, and technology needs to be well-incorporated. Yes, an effort is being made, but not to the fullest. If social institutions were able to keep pace with the times — in education and beyond –we all would be better off and could work more effectively. But while we act for that change to occur, it can’t hurt to increase our individual attention span.
Beatifully put. Thanks for reading and for such a thoughtful note.
Reblogged this on BillsPlace and commented:
How’s your attention span?
Reblogged this on englishistory.
Very funny indeed 😀
Wow! Thank you so much for reading and for your nice note!
You’re welcome – I like a laugh 😀
I have said for years (my oldest is 18) I have no memory. No short term, no long term. If it’s not written down there’s no chance of it happening and at this stage (with 3 kids under 5) writing it down is no guarantee either. Loved your post, I can do totally relate.
Thank you so much for reading it, then remembering to reply! 😉 Three kids under 5? Yowza! good luck – I don’t know if I’d even be able to form a coherent sentence!
Haha! There are days I’m not sure if I do.
Great post. SOmething I have thought about a lot too.
Thank you so much!
Loved your post! Well-written! I always wondered about how I could increase my focus on one thing and not begin too many things (because I’d never get back to what I began with!) I will definitely visit the rabbit hole to improve my focus. It was something I thought about but never got around to doing it! Nicely done!
Wow, thank you so much! The rabbit hole – it sucks you in and before you know it, it steals your day. Good luck out there!
thank you so much!
I find myself having less and less patience for things I don’t want to do and then my attention span is getting lower and lower. I swear in a few years I’m going to be completely absent-minding.
Ugh, I know. I’m afraid I’m already there – I’m trying to stop it before it’s gone completely. thanks so much for reading and for your nice note!
Well I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has a near non-existent attention span. I can’t help but thinking that our ‘get it now’ society has allowed us to get things to quickly that once we are supposed to focus on something for more than 5 minutes we lose interest and attention. I like your idea on setting an alarm to try to push yourself to spend longer on a task, this is probably something that I need to do. I wish that I could just get rid of the internet and my phone and then I think that my attention span would come back to where it used to be, but I’m afraid that there’s no reversing our technological society.
Holy smokes, you are absolutely not alone. Thanks so much for reading and for your note. I really am having a love hate relationship with the Internet right now…I’m trying to find a realistic and healthy balance. Best of luck to you!!
recently moved…no wi-fi,no T.V….spasmodically working phone…result more reading, more exercise, more socialising, more practising of things I really like…..
There is a lovely irony in writing a lengthy post about attention that requires it in significant amounts to get all the way through 😉 That said, love your simple wisdom and straight up perspective. Nice post!
ha, so true. Thank you for making it through and for your nice note!
Ha ha…just what I was thinking as I read……scrolled down just to check how much there was to go…..!
I wanted to read the whole post but … I … lost … focus … 🙂
haha! I totally understand. thanks for trying.
Absolutely loved your thoughts on this topic! I was convinced that I am suffering from undiagnosed ADD. Turns out I’m imperfectly normal!:)
That’s right! You are not alone! Thanks for reading and for your nice note!
This sounded VERY familiar….soooo was there during the ‘child rearing’ time! Life is faster now though…..more connected with the world……..nice to turn everything off and have a complete thought! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Wow, well written, I really enjoyed your take on this subject! I wrote a very small but related post last night, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who’s struggling to focus and get proper things done. The basics.
You will really enjoy this speech by Ken Robinson, if you haven’t already seen it:
thank you so so much! I haven’t seen this talk – thanks for sending, I’ll have to check it out. You are absolutely not the only one – looks like there’s a lot of us! thanks for reading and for your nice note!
Ken Robinson talks have kept me going for a while now….humane and wise….
Great! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it!
It’s so true what you say. The internet can really suck you in. I personally don’t have any type of cellphone device. If I’m not home, then leave me alone without interruptions and let me do whatever I’m doing. Enjoyed the read.
Reading this I’m not sure I’m going to have to write my blog at all….in fact re-thinking my first ever HOUR on here altogether because right now….at least starting only a month ago I moved to a new flat…no wi fi & I decided…no telly….I’ve been reading stuff,practising things ALOT, getting back into the Uke…..doing DIY…cycling further….going to bed earlier…..marvellous…..now….here I am, appreciating the irony WHILST getting sucked in to this new world (for me of the blog)…..i should probably go no further…..but…….(guess I’ll have to try and observe my attention span over a week or two and then decide….procrastination crisis could occur…?!?!
I can soooo re-late to this article, thank-you! Agatha Christie was my favorite…my parents tried to keep up, with a smile and no complaining…work was a blessing!
In a nut shell you manage to identify the feelings we are all experiencing. We are struggling to find that balance in life!
I enjoy Facebook and a lot of the other electronic conveniences that we enjoy today but time spent quietly trimming hedges or pulling weeds manually outside, or plodding through Augustine’s “City of God” indoors when it is inclement outside (which in the Pacific Northwest it is nine months out of the year) is when I recharge. Great bit of writing; I enjoyed it very much.
As an educator, I find this to be such an important issue! So many “Millennials” grow up with fractured attention – verbal conversation split with text messages, internet message boards, and chat apps. If you sit at the back of a lecture hall, you can see websites like ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, and Match.com on a large percentage of computer screens instead of class notes. It’s not just damaging when it comes to grades, but also when it comes to prepping for future careers. I really enjoyed your take on the issue!
Smart and funny post. I struggle with my own internet induced attention deficit disorder. And yes, it’s becoming more and more of a societal issue, especially for our children.
Incorporating some lessons from Buddhist mindfulness is a currently trendy way to grow that attention span. Sometimes we just aren’t even aware that we can’t stay on one task. If we crank up that awareness, we can start to take measures to increase focus. Very well written article!
I have a theory that goes something like this: in the Information era, things that distract us or pull us in so many directions are less ‘active’ than the historical situations you describe. That is, a kid has to put in absolutely zero effort of mind to click through the various websites they frequent, and scarcely more to click on the funny cat videos each has. It would have used to be that if you wanted to get away from work by playing a game, you didn’t have a Nintendo or Facebook, you actually had to physically get out the crib board or Monopoly. It’s just a lot easier, and the amount of possible distractions has grown in such profusion, that you need many more techniques of self-control to avoid all of them and be productive.
I was going to write something profound but by the time I scrolled all the way down here, I had forgotten what…hey, why am I here again?
Observation is spot on!
Reblogged this on Cortney Espinola.
Just found your “Attention ” blog. You are so right! . To focus for any length of time on any one thing can seem like a luxury. I happen to think that there is no cure for this. Adaption is the key. It is there for good, just lay back and enjoy the process. Thanks for the fun.
This article is so good, I like this blog, Thank you very much for sharing