Despite the familiar complaints, we rarely find ourselves in situations where we don’t have ample time. Procrastinated till the last night to finish an important project? Hold on a sec, you’ve still got the whole night ahead of you to work. Add up all those hours, and that’s probably more than you actually need. The problem is, not all of that time is actually usable because of an exasperating phenomenon known as attention span.
Being able to stay in a highly focused state for an extended length of time is an invaluable skill to have. For shorter periods, using a mental anchor is one of the most effective approaches to gather your attention. However, constantly relying on a mental anchor will weaken its usefulness because you’ll eventually become too mentally exhausted to pull yourself together whenever you perform the ritual.
The prototypical advice is to eliminate distractions while you work. However, once you’ve been working for a while, it’s easy to fall into temptation, no matter how inconvenient you’ve made them.
Obviously, the best solution is to find work that you enjoy, but this isn’t always practical. If you’ve set goals that are worth achieving, you’ll inevitably have to do tasks you aren’t exactly thrilled about, even if you’ve delegated or outright eliminated much of the auxiliary work.
You can’t instantaneously change how you feel about things. Something that was boring to you a minute ago will probably still be boring now. Although you can alleviate some of the mental drudgery by reminding yourself of your ultimate purpose, there’s no quick cure. However, one thing we can consciously change immediately is how we move. Specifically, how we conduct our bodies directly affects our attention span.
When your mind starts to drift off or get distracted, your body language follows suit. Your back starts to slump, your eyes start to droop, you prop up your legs on the desk…you know the drill. If you find yourself entering this lax state when you really need to be focusing, start off by adjusting your posture and sharpening your movements. Sit up straight, widen your eyes, and most of all, put a smile on your face. Choosing to move differently and adopt a positive body manner evokes biochemical changes in your body which, over time, will change who you are as a person. Most people realize that attitude manifests itself in body language; what they don’t realize is that it works the other way around as well.
To practice, carry yourself in a confident and purposeful manner for progressively longer periods of time. This means no leaning forward on your computer chair and no sluggish walking about. Don’t stiffen up; on the contrary, you need to relax, but in an ergonomically correct way. Your mind will grow sturdier to reflect your physical manner, and this will, in turn, increase attention span.