Saturday, 6 October 2012

Lengthening My Attention Span

Over the years and particularly through my depression, my ability to concentrate became almost non-existent.

I worked out a while ago now that multitasking is a fallacy. You end up doing twice as much stuff but half as well. For me, focussing on a task and ignoring interruptions has resulted in higher quality work and more enjoyment for me in doing it.

People will often hear me talk about mindfulness and being aware of and involved in each moment as it happens. I've been reading a lot of books exploring existentialism that encourage the idea of authenticity of experience.

For me, mindfulness and authenticity are a result of participating in the experience and savouring the moment as it envelops you. It is like a perfect kiss where you breathe each other in and kiss each other back.

What I have worked out in the last six months is that to truly appreciate life and live it in the best way I possibly can, I must pay attention to the parts and not live it in an event driven way where I follow the distraction to... well, distraction.

Even while writing this, I have flicked to Facebook several times to see what my latest notification is and then Twitter to mock the way I can't focus. I have a long way to go.

These are my current methods for lengthening my attention span and they are working:

Read 20 pages of a book every day

Reading has been the most successful mechanism for lengthening my attention span. At first I could read only 1-2 pages before feeling sleepy. Now I can read 10-15 before I start to wonder what else I could be doing. Fiction is the most successful thing for me to read but I'm trying non-fiction from time to time.

Spend time without my phone

Great ideas come to people in the shower because they are not distracting their mind with anything. They have time to think. These are called gap moments and we spend so much time filling them with distractions that we are losing the ability to think of nothing and let thoughts emerge. When I am standing in a line or waiting to meet a friend, I no longer use my phone as a distraction. I actually stare in to space or mini-meditate while doing nothing much.

Give people with you all your attention

Nothing bugs me more than being with someone who will take a phone call in my presence. If someone is with me and in the same room then they get my priority. Some person who calls me on a whim is not going to trump my present company. I will often take the call and say I am busy and will call them back or I hit a button that texts them and says I'm busy right now but will respond soon. Giving attention to the person I am with shows respect for the time they are giving me. I wouldn't spin my chair around and join another table in a cafe mid-sentence so why would I take a call and put the here-right-now person last.

These are just some of the skills that are helping me rebuild and hone my mind so that it is the bright little spark it was in my mid-20s.

If you have any other suggestions that work for you, please do tell me.

No comments: