One of my favorite neologisms for the 2020s is the phrase “attention span of a goldfish.” It totally hits the nail on the head. Whoever you say it to understands exactly what you’re saying. After all, everyone knows that a goldfish’s memory can only span a few seconds… somewhere between 3 and 10. Unfortunately, though, more and more of us are experiencing what it feels like to have the attention span of a goldfish these days. Tons of us have experienced a substantial decrease in our attention, focus, and working memories since the Covid pandemic first reared its ugly head. Fortunately, we don’t need to just take that sitting down. In this post, we’ll cover how you can increase your focus and attention span with some natural tricks.
Why Can’t You Focus?
If you can’t focus, you’re not alone. In fact, psychologists are calling the outbreak of adult ADHD in the UK an “epidemic.” But before we start looking at ways to improve your attention, let’s look at some of the reasons why you can’t focus in the first place.
Focusing is Hard and Uncomfortable
Let’s face it: focusing on work is usually not fun. Even people who “love their jobs” would be hard-pressed to say that they’d rather be working than relaxing at a beach, summiting a mountain with their canine sidekick, or spending quality time with their families. Then, add that social media gives us access to images and videos of those experiences (along with an immediate dopamine hit), and you can see why so many people get distracted by their phones or Instagram feeds when they should be getting work done.
You’re Falling Into an Unhealthy Routine
If we know a task is difficult, we’ll often try to deflect actually having to do it by doing something that’s still “productive” but significantly easier. For example, how often have you stopped working on a difficult task or assignment to check your email? After all, checking your email is still “productive,” so you’re still “working,” right?”
This is linked to the immediate dopamine release we mentioned earlier. Doing work gives our brain positive feedback. So when we tell ourselves we’re doing work, we get that dopamine release. The only problem is, that you’re not actually getting any work done – you’re still procrastinating. This behavior only works to sap our attention and focus away from the actual job we need to do.
How to Improve Focus and Attention Span
Okay, so we’ve looked at some of the things that suck your attention away from what you’re supposed to be doing. But how can we fix that? Here are a few solutions.
Focus Intensely on the Task at Hand, Not the Goal
Lots of times, when we set down to get started on finishing something for work or a personal project, we’re focusing on the end result. But that can be overwhelming. We look at the things that stand between us and our goal and think, “that’s hard.”
But instead of doing that, we should focus on the task at hand. In his award-winning book Play Anything, philosopher and video game designer Ian Bogost states that we can weaponize our attention spans towards completing any task when we “fill life with play.” Say you need to mow the lawn. Don’t focus on the idea of that perfectly cut green sea of grass. Instead, pay attention to the task you’re doing when you do it. Gauge yourself on how straight your lines are and how perfectly you avoid those pesky pop-up sprinklers. By focusing on the task at hand (and making a game out of it), we can use our attention spans to our advantage.
Stop Telling Yourself You “Don’t Have Time”
If you’re the kind of person who has trouble starting tasks in the first place, this may be a problem you face. You’re facing some task, and you see how difficult it might be, and you tell yourself it’s a lost cause. You might as well just give up now because there’s no way you’ll be able to finish the task in the first place.
This line of thinking is sort of an inverted sunk cost fallacy. Instead of sticking to a task because we’re too invested in it, we don’t do the task because we believe we’ll become too invested in it for the amount of bandwidth that we have. Just suck it up and get started. You may surprise yourself with how much work you can get done in a short timeframe once you actually get started!
Try Plant Extracts
One way many people (especially young people) improve their attention span these days is by using plant extracts. According to some research, one big reason people between the ages of 18 and 34 use these products is to boost their focus and attention. There are a ton of reasons that this can help boost your attention span. But one of the big ones is that it appears to help reduce anxiety. By soothing feelings of anxiety, plant extracts helps to eliminate a lot of the extra “noise” going on in your brain. Getting rid of all that extra stuff bouncing around in the ol’ brain box allows you to focus more on the task you have at hand, improving your memory and attention.
Curious about trying something to improve your own attention span? At Relive Everyday, we can connect you with the right products for the job. To learn more, check out our entire selection of products derived naturally from USA-grown hemp plants.
Increasing Your Focus IS Possible
Before you give in to despair and accept your goldfish-tier memory, try these tips. Who knows – you may be able to actually improve your working memory and improve your focus. Because there’s something, we haven’t told you about goldfish yet. We said earlier that they have really bad memories, remember? Well, despite their reputation as bumbling idiots, goldfish are pretty smart. According to experts in animal cognition, a goldfish’s memory can span weeks, months, or even years. And if a goldfish can learn to improve its focus and remember something for more than 8 seconds, you can too. Good luck!