Reading Time: 3 minutes
Do you ever feel like your ability to retain information is suffering? Indeed, today’s research has found that millennials are more forgetful than senior citizens. Many factors contribute to this phenomenon, and guess what? Technology is one of the culprits that affect your attention span and ability to focus, learn, and remember.
The culture of multitasking, the introduction of notifications, and chats seem like they would increase your productivity and efficiency at first glance; however, research shows that habitual multitaskers’ attention gets negatively affected.
Jason M. Lodge and Wiliam J. Harrison in their paper The Role of Attention in Learning in the Digital Age discuss that:
A classical view of visual working memory is that only three or four items can be remembered at one time, and any additional information is simply not stored in memory. Given this highly limited capacity to hold items in memory, attentional control can play a critical role in governing whether a subset of visual information should hold priority… If a particular visual object is expected to be more important than others, voluntarily allocating attention to that object improves the precision with which it is remembered, but this improvement comes at a loss of memory precision for non-attended objects.
Listen to science
As a matter of fact, according to science, the average person used to have an attention span of about 12 seconds, before the introduction of smartphones and social media. Nowadays, a person who owns one of these devices has an attention span of about 8 seconds, while goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds. Think about it: we are evolving into Dory from Finding Nemo. Over these decades, technology has become ever more persuasive and is often designed to capture our attention.
No matter how hard we try, humans can only process a certain amount of complex information at a given moment. We have the capability to direct our attention and filter out unnecessary information. For instance, when you are at a big dinner, you can zone in and listen to the person across the table without getting lost in the background noise. However, sometimes our attention gets involuntarily hijacked by an exceptionally loud noise, or if you hear your name in a parallel conversation. Distractions inhibit our ability to store information. It gets stored long term when it moves from the front of our brain into deeper territory, and for that, we require attentiveness.
Okay, you say, I want to improve my attention, but what can be done about it?
Well, let’s start by turning off those buzzing notifications
Put on some noise-canceling headphones or ever some earplugs to eliminate auditory distractions.
Buy books or invest in a kindle
This is a great way to prevent any unnecessary distractions while reading.
There is a whole branch called concentration meditation that helps you grown your ability to sustain attention effortlessly. In fact, this more than 5000-year-old practice can rewire your brain over time and improve your attention, focus, memory, etc.
Stay hydrated and don’t forget to exercise to keep your body in check.
It is a feature already built into your iOS, which gets rid of the bright colors on your phone, and suddenly the apps look less attractive.
Take notes by hand
Like with reading, research has shown that students who take notes by hand are less likely to get distracted versus those using laptops.
Don’t forget to get up and get a glass of water or walk every 45 min to an hour while working behind a computer.
Schedule time for brief glimpses at social media
Stick to the allocated times.
Schedule time for deep, uninterrupted thinking
Close down that slack window, ask your cat (if you have one) to politely leave the room.