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May I have your attention, please?

Split Tech City

Split Tech City


Picture this: you are at a conference, the speaker is captivating and the topic is mind-blowing. A few minutes into it, your phone screen lights up with your boss’s last-minute changes for the upcoming meeting.

Despite your best efforts, your focus is gone as swiftly as a bolt of lightning on the horizon and you are calculating how to fit in five hours’ worth of work in a two-hour window when you come home.

Another quite possible scenario: you are browsing Netflix determined to relax and watch a movie. Easier said than done – how on Earth are you supposed to pick a movie with so many options available?!

You spend your precious time going from IMDb to your WhatsApp group for advice, only to end up falling asleep.

What is the science behind this phenomenon?

Let us start by defining what attention span in fact is. According to Cambridge Dictionary, it is ‘the length of time that someone can keep their thoughts and interest fixed on something‘.

Ever since my line of work is in education, I used to think there is nothing more difficult than grabbing and holding the attention of children.

However, that has slowly become the case not only with kids but also with adults. It made me wonder.

According to a recent study by Microsoft, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. The interesting part is that the average attention of a human being is currently only 8 seconds. We have faced a significant drop from the beginning of the century when the average was 12 seconds.

What is the root cause of this occurrence?

As you might have guessed, the rise of technology and the attention span length are inversely proportional. As the number of information and things to focus on grows, the shorter our periods of focus become.

We also get bored quickly and desire new content fairly soon. In other words, topics become popular more swiftly, but the interest declines just as fast as it rises, leaving the person or the subject in the spotlight for a short time only.

According to neuroscientist Earl Miller, humans are single-minded and their brains have a very limited cognitive capacity.

That is, when humans think they are multitasking, they are actually juggling between several things, which results in a significant drop in performance. This phenomenon is called the switch-cost effect and it explains why our boss’s message in the introduction takes a toll on our attention and productivity.

What can we do to heal our attention?
  • Strip out your distractions.

    For example, limit your time on social media and stick to it. By doing that, you have no need to shift from one activity to another. This is especially useful when you work and need all the brainpower you have. Don’t forget to disable the sounds and vibrations.
  • Read longer texts.

    From blogs to 15-second videos – popular content formats change rapidly, and, in consequence, people read less. Reading long-form pieces is of utmost importance for critical thinking. One should be able to engage with, analyze a text and present reasoned arguments.
  • Get lost in a flow state.

    Choose a single meaningful goal, set the bar slightly higher than your abilities, and get into it. Remember – it has to be something you love.

If you made it this far, I want to thank you for your undivided attention in a world where that is slowly becoming a privilege.

P.S. Keep in mind the importance of being present in the moment and doing one thing at a time without interruptions. 🙂

The article was written by: Ana Knezović


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Split Tech City

We are the first formal association of Split’s tech community which includes companies, associations, institutions, meetups, and individuals.

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