You probably find your mind wandering at least a few times a day at work.
You might chalk it up to exhaustion, or boredom, or maybe you think your job just isn’t interesting enough to hold your attention.
But the truth is, no matter what you are doing, your mind is going to wander.
Because the average human attention span is only 8 seconds long!
If you’re sick of having the focus of a goldfish, all you have to do is follow my advice, and you’ll immediately see your attention span and your productivity increase.
According to a study by Microsoft, since the widespread integration of technology (particularly cell phones) since 2000, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8.
And 12 seconds was already short!
Now, this doesn’t meant that you completely lose focus every 8 seconds. What it does mean is that every 8 seconds your mind cycles into awareness of other things happening around you.
You could still be working, but you’re also thinking about whether you locked the door when you left for work that morning.
You could still be talking on the phone with a client, but you’re also noticing the intern struggling with the copier.
Attention span simply refers to the amount of time the mind is able to focus solely on a single task.
And thanks to the immediacy of technology, our ability to hone into that focus has dropped 4 seconds—meaning we have lost 1/3 of our attention spans—in less than two decades!
How are we supposed to get anything done when we can only pay attention to a task for 8 seconds at a time?
It’s actually easier than you might think. You can do it in just 4 steps.
1. Step away from the technology
Technology is the source of our decreased attention spans, so the remedy is to limit your exposure. If your mind starts to wander, don’t turn to your phone or your computer for something to capture your attention.
Try talking to a coworker or going to get a coffee from the breakroom instead.
Studies show that engaging the mind in a new task—social interaction, making a drink or snack, or even just going for a walk—resets the mind and allows you to better hold your focus when you return to working.
2. Drink more fluids
This one may seem out of place, but it’s been proven that dehydration is the number one factor in decreasing your ability to concentrate.
Think about it like oil in a machine. When the gears aren’t properly oiled, they don’t run as quickly or efficiently. In your body, water allows everything to function better. It increases awareness and generally helps your body and mind wake up.
So if you ever feel distracted, reach for another glass of water!
3. Make a checklist each day
It has been proven that people are more thorough, productive, and engaged in the completion of tasks if they have clear objectives.
At work, you might think you know what you have to get done each day, but having that mental list isn’t nearly as effective as writing it out.
By having a physical checklist, you remove the automatic distraction of remembering what to do next as you transition from one task to the next throughout the day.
If you think of your mind like a train track, moving from working to planning what to do next is like switching tracks. It takes your mind a minute to shift paths from working to planning, and then another to backtrack and transition into working again.
But if you do all of your planning at the start of the day, you can continue on down the same train of thought without interruptions, shifting from one task to the next.
4. Organize your day according to your body’s natural patterns
It’s been proven that the mind works in cycles throughout the 24 hour day, which makes for specific times when you are at peak productivity.
Ever feel exhausted at 3pm for no particular reason?
Well, that’s because you mind is sending chemical signals to let your body know it’s time to start slowing down and preparing to rest for the night.
This also means that your peak productivity is in the first half of the day.
So when you’re making that checklist for the day, make sure to put the most intensive tasks first, and leave the easy work for the afternoon.
By starting strong and easing into the end of the day, you work with your body instead of against it.
For the first few minutes, taking the plunge into hard work in the morning might seem like a lot, but that’s what your handy glass of water and supportive checklist are for!