This archived article was written by: Carlie Miller
Debates have raged for decades on whether we have one or not, is media affecting it or not, and are we born with one or is it developed? The attention span has once again become a hot topic with both sides using technology as the main witness.
The definition of attention span is roughly “the length of time a person can focus” or, for those with longer attention spans (and higher vocabularies), “the duration of a non-spatial continuum in which an individualistic entity’s mental faculty is able to cogitate or remain interested on a field of reference.”
The attention span is important for completing tasks and Wikipedia says it is “crucial for the achievement of one’s goals.” It is especially important for college students striving to finish before they hit the retirement age (I, myself, have six years to go at the very least). With graduation riding on such an important function, it might be helpful to know the length of your attention span and what everyday things can affect it.
To put it simply, attention spans are measured by length of concentration. You have a short attention span if you cannot do small and simple tasks or a long attention span if you can do painstaking and boring tasks for hours. The average attention span is just that, you can complete everyday tasks but are bored by meticulous duties. If you want to know where you stand, you can either take an attention span test online or observe your actions and record what you find boring and what you enjoy doing.
Many things can affect a person’s attention span. You have spent a whole hour of your life trying to find x but you can’t seem to focus, your mind is wandering, you just might be stressed. No problem, try taking a short break and go for a brisk walk, play a short game of basketball or do a quick jig. A sudden burst of movement relieves stress and causes happy hormones to rush through your brain along with some fresh oxygen. Too embarrassed to get your groove on in public? Then stay seated and take some advice from Peter Pan: think happy thoughts. Warm fuzzies will cancel out stress faster than those numbers in your x equation.
What if you’re not stressed, it’s just that you can’t keep your eyes open? If the instructor is bent on you snoozing through the lecture, then the best option is to oblige. That’s right, sleep! Some instructors will even tell you take a nap, but don’t make it a habit. Try getting a good night’s rest before class, though I know this also cannot get to be the habit of the average college student. Here’s a personal tip: mark on your calendar when a class exam or presentation will occur and then take the three days before that event and mark them as no party days. Go to bed 10 to 11 hours before your first class on each of the three nights and presto! You will be so focused you could stare a goat to death. In need for a quick boost before a crucial accounting lecture in 30 minutes? No problem, throw out that coffee and abstain from soft drinks (they can actually make you lose focus), grab a banana instead. Any snack with high amounts of potassium, protein, carbs and fat will keep your blood sugar in tip-top shape which helps you stay focused. Also try that miracle substance with no calories without a fee (unless you’re a bit picky)—H2O. Water hydrates the body better than anything else (sorry Gatorade) and keeps your focus going strong.
For the unobservant I will point out that as you have been reading this article, the paragraphs have increased in size, those who scanned the title can be likened to people with short attention spans, those reading the first few paragraphs have an average attention span. Congratulations for the few of you who have reached this paragraph for your attention span is the longest. You trudged through this article and kept to the very end, you are most desirable to employers and society at large because this means you are persistent and complete the job you start.