We are a society of shortened attention spans, thanks largely to technology, Smartphones and social media. Want to know the weather in Hong Kong? Ask Siri. Want to watch something, choose from thousands of shows on streaming services. Need amusement, scroll through Tiktok videos until you laugh. Don’t want to labor over a hot stove, click on UberEats and food will be at your door. Even for those who do not have a diagnosis of ADHD, this quick, instant gratification decreases our attention spans through learned behaviors. What about when technology can’t do the work for us such as exercising, studying for a test, or researching a work project?
Dr. Haley Perlus is a sports and performance psychology Ph.D. who works with top athletes and corporations. She shares some vital tips to help retrain our “tech spoiled” brains.
Some of us wear multitasking like a badge of honor because it makes us feel more efficient. It does the opposite by reducing concentration, focus and lowering productivity. Keep your phone out of sight if you are at work and typing emails. Close social media or other applications on your desktop and distracting audio you might be listening to. By shutting off these external distractions, you will be able to concentrate better even though it might be challenging to do so.
Exercise your brain
Just like you exercise your body, you can exercise your “brain muscles” to increase your attention span. Scientific evidence shows that engaging in games that demand focus, such as Wordle, Sudoku, or activities such as jigsaw puzzles, or memory games can enhance concentration. Even spending 15 minutes a day five days a week training your brain can impact. For those who love gaming, there is good news: A recent study showed that one hour of gaming can enhance attention for specific tasks and enable people to disengage from distractions.
Hydrate your body
If you are feeling “antsy” you could simply be thirsty. When you are mildly dehydrated your motor coordination can be affected, cognitive performance, and executive function. These all have a specific bearing on attention span. It has been shown that hydration and food help more than any supplement. Drinking small amounts of water throughout the day is more beneficial than drinking a massive amount at once.
Keep yourself engaged in a meeting at the office/PTA/ Place of Worship/ Zoom Call
For those with short attention spans, meetings can be the bane of our existence, whether in person or on zoom. One way to keep engaged and stay alert is to make comments and ask questions instead of quietly listening. This will keep your brain alert and reactive.
Listen to music
Unfortunately, Jay Z, Lizzo, and Drake won’t help your attention span, but classical music will. A Standford University study found that short symphonies influence the brain areas that correlate with paying attention. What is key are the short periods of silence between musical movements (found in symphonies) that raise brain activities.
Take notes the old fashioned way- by hand
When we are in a meeting or a lecture, it’s not like a Tiktok video where we can scroll to the next thing that interests us. To keep engaged, leave the laptop home, and take notes by pen and notebook. Princeton University Research shows that they listened more effectively when students took notes by hand. In addition, a laptop is tempting because it provides the distractions of social media, email, and the internet.
Lastly, don’t forget exercise, sleep, good nutrition and meditation.
Dr. Haley Perlus knows what it takes to overcome barriers and achieve peak performance. As an elite alpine ski racer, she competed and trained with the best in the world, pushing herself to the limits time and time again. Now, with a PhD in sport psychology, Haley continues to push boundaries and drive peak performance, helping athletes and Fortune 100 executives reach their goals.
Haley works with individuals and teams to manage and expand their energy capacity while increasing resilience, focus and drive. Dr. Perlus is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, professor, author and consultant to Division I athletes. She has spoken at many events some of which include VISTAGE, Tec Canada, Elite Fitness and Performance Summit and Trilogy Athletes. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado lecturing on applied sport and exercise psychology at the graduate level. She has authored several books including The Ultimate Achievement Journal and The Inside Drive and her articles have been featured in publications such as Thrive Magazine, Fitness Magazine, IDEA Fitness Journal, EpicTimes, Telluride Inside, MyVega and BeachBody®.
Dr. Perlus earned her PhD at the University of Northern Colorado with an emphasis on social psychology of sport and physical activity, her MS at the University of Florida in sport pedagogy and her bachelor’s degree at the University of Western Ontario in kinesiology. Haley loves both water and snow skiing, and hiking. Her favorite meal is anything that requires only chopping or blending.