Since the advent of the smartphone, our attention span has rapidly decreased. A study by Microsoft concluded that our average attention span has decreased from twelve seconds to eight seconds since 2000. That’s officially shorter than goldfish that come in at nine seconds. So, what does this mean for our productivity?
Concentrating is harder than ever, but we don’t want that to be an excuse for getting less done. In fact, as our attention span has decreased, our ability to multitask has actually increased thanks to our digital lifestyles. Just think about it – how many screens do you usually have open on your smartphone? How often do you browse the web whilst watching television, cooking a roast and Skyping your mum at the same time?
The trick to staying productive at work or college is to increase your attention span and capitalise on your newfound multitasking powers. We’ve come up with five tips to help you get into a good routine and do just that.
In a working capacity, many sources claim that people can generally concentrate in blocks of up to forty-five minutes, where it is then advised to take a ten to fifteen minute break. Get up and grab a cup of tea, take a walk round the block, or simply look at something other than the task at hand. This may seem like a cop out, but it will guarantee that you get more done in those forty-five minutes than if you were to power through hours of work, completely exhausting your brain.
Sometimes it’s overwhelming when you have a to-do list as long as your arm just floating around in your head. It can put you off starting anything at all, so it’s best to write everything down to help you order and prioritise your most urgent tasks and those that can wait. Make a list for each day in the week, prioritising each job by deadline. This will enable you to see your workload for what it is and feel a sense of achievement every time you tick something off, spurring you on for the next task.
Working with your body’s natural rhythm is key. Some people are more productive in the morning and others, in the afternoon. Pay attention to this and use it to your advantage where you can. If you’re more productive in the morning, set your most challenging tasks for first thing and leave the easier jobs for when your energy is waning in the afternoon.
There are multiple lifestyle factors that can affect your energy levels – these should not be underestimated. First of all, getting a good amount of sleep is key. Eight hours is the nationally recommended average, although it’s good to figure out what your body needs as this varies from one person to the next. This will make sure you’re more alert and less prone to energy dips.
When an energy dip does occur, you’re also more likely to reach for the sugar and caffeine which gives you a nice little spike, then you dip again. Instead, focus on foods that help boost and maintain you throughout the day, like whole grains, fresh fruit, lean protein, nuts and slow-release carbohydrates. Swap processed sugar for natural sugars and fresh fruit, as this will avoid peaks and troughs in your blood sugar level.
Exercise is also important. Far from tiring you out, moving your body will actually get your mind moving too. It’s scientifically proven that exercise increases blood flow to the brain, therefore the mind becomes more alert. Even low intensity activity like a brisk 20-minute walk around the block will help perk you up for the morning or afternoon ahead.
It’s a fact that not all of us are born with the urge or ability to keep everything in its place, but a tidy workspace makes for a tidy mind. Don’t underestimate the impact your workspace has on your productivity. Give it a spring clean, clear out the rubbish and organise the bits you need to keep into an order your head is happy with.