“Too long; didn’t read”: Attention spans have dropped from 12 minutes to 5 minutes

attention-span4  reality TV

Attention span is the amount of concentrated time one can spend on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals.

The ability to stay focused will be the superpower of the 21st century.

If you guys are anything like the readers of Slate.com, 38% of you are already gone.

You couldn’t stay focused long enough to engage with this post at all.

Is it time to scroll to see more?

Too much effort, too busy, meh, gotta go, HEY LOOK SOMETHING SHINY!!! — another 5% of you just vanished.

Yes, attention spans are that bad. http://ti.me/1jKis7u

Part one: attention span test


Attention Span Test
10 questions, 5 min

How long can you focus on a task without getting distracted? Your attention span can have a major impact on your performance at work or school, and your ability to deal with the tasks of everyday life – one lapse in attention can result in missing out on important information, errors, or worse. Take this test to find out more about your level of attentiveness.

TEST LINK: http://bit.ly/1kxRznm

Part two: attention span dropping due to social media

By Neil Vidyarthi, Social Times, Dec. 14, 2011 –

According to a fascinating infographic entitled “How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds,” over the course of the last ten years the average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to a staggeringly short 5 minutes [Editor: Updated to 5 minutes; the infographic has an incorrect statistic].  As a person deeply ensconced in this connected age my experience shows this to be true.  These days, we give a YouTube video just a few seconds to determine if it’s worth it.  So what else does social media and technology affect within our minds?

Take a look at the infographic below to see more interesting statistics and facts — thanks to the folks at AssistedLivingToday.

Part three: Stay Focused: 5 Ways to Increase Your Attention Span

Eric Barker, TIME, June 26, 2014

Now I’m wondering if I should have made this post shorter.

Cal Newport, Georgetown professor and expert on expertise, thinks the ability to stay focused will be the superpower of the 21st century.

Those who can sit in a chair, undistracted for hours, mastering subjects and creating things will rule the world — while the rest of us frantically and futilely try to keep up with texts, tweets and other incessant interruptions.

Here are five tips:

1) Stress Makes You Frazzled And Stupid

Reducing stress improves your ability to stay focused.

Via Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging:

Drs. Eldar Shafir of Princeton and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard tested the IQs of Indian farmers before and after their harvest–times when their finances were maximally depleted and maximally flush, respectively. Before the harvest, as a consequence of being strapped for cash, the farmers were in a general state of worry, and their IQ tests were significantly lower than after the harvest, when the money flowed more freely and the farmers did not have to attend to their financial concerns moment-to-moment. The implication is that the attentional resources of these farmers–in other words, their ability to focus–were depleted by their financial worries.

(Here’s more on reducing stress.)

2) Give It Your Best Hours

Want to insure you can focus? Give whatever is most important your prime hours, when you have the most energy.

Via The Power of Full Engagement:

Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.

Night owl or morning lark? Work on important things when you’re not depleted.

(Here’s more on using your prime hours wisely.)

3) Dedicate Time

If it’s important, give a project it’s own exclusive block of time. This gives you permission to work on it and ignore other things.

You stress less about work when you have a plan. Believe it or not, worry affects you less when you schedule a time to worry:

When people with adjustment disorders, burnout or severe work problems used techniques to confine their worrying to a single, scheduled 30-minute period each day, they were better able to cope with their problems, a new study by researchers in the Netherlands finds.

(Here’s more on using time wisely.)

4) One Thing At A Time

Put aside the distractions and do one thing at a time. Your brain was never designed to multitask well.

Via Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School:

To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.

Across the board, multitasking lowers productivity. But if multitasking doesn’t work, why do you do it so often?

It makes you more emotionally satisfied as it makes you less productive:

“…they seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive – they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.”

(Here’s more on productivity.)

5) Meditation Is Weight Lifting For Your Attention Span

Meditation doesn’t just chill you out; if your attention-span is a muscle,meditation is exercise:

This article shows that a group randomly assigned to 5 days of meditation practice with the integrative body-mind training method shows significantly better attention and control of stress than a similarly chosen control group given relaxation training.

(Here’s more on meditation–including how to do it.)


Congratulations on finishing this post.

(Then again, if you finished it, maybe you’re not the type who needed help…)


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