Attention span


Indian writer Ashwin Sanghi was quoted as saying: “The average human attention span was 12 seconds in 2000 and eight seconds in 2013, it’s a drop of 33 percent.

The scary part is that the attention span of a goldfish was nine seconds, almost 13 percent more than us humans. This is why it’s getting tougher by the day to get people to turn the page, maybe we writers ought to try writing for goldfish!”

He must have written this many years ago. Because experts today say that the average attention span of adults today is eight seconds. So this means we humans are worse than goldfish. However, I have always wondered how they measured goldfishes’ attention span. It is easy to say that we have to avoid distractions, but today’s distractions like news feeds, tons of information and entertainment are readily available. Even news has to be entertaining just to hold on to the viewer’s attention.

Have you ever conversed with people that paid attention to what you were saying for a few initial seconds and then, later on, begin to drift, and eyes start to shift everywhere? This is now a common occurrence. And do not get me started on the case of eyes glancing on smartphones!

In an age of increased digital presence, the most sought-after people for the workplace have the skills in creative processing and problem-solving. And all these human ingenuities are available only when there is the skill of focused attention placed on the task at hand.

I just concluded a four part-training program for a multi-national company wherein I presented the new digital economy’s critical skills needed for business and career success. I am so glad that in every session the attention was maintained as evidenced by the tons of questions that poured in after the presentation. The skills I presented are more in demand today as the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation. Watch out for these distractions that, when left unmanaged, would even shorten your already shortened attention span:

Group chats

Being in a group chat is like participating in an all-day meeting. You have random participants, and you do not even have an agenda. Experts recommend that you choose a small group and set a time for viewing it. But use it like a sauna. You get in, and you get out, and you do not stay in there. Be choosy. Ensure that the group consists of participants who can add and extract value from the conversation. Set a time for it and do not respond to every “ping” you hear every time somebody posts something in it. Better still turn off the notification sound.

Your smartphone

You have to make sure that you are the one that is smart and not just your phone. Delete apps that you do not use or you rarely get to use. Use only the apps that would add value to what you do and who you are, the rest are simply time-wasters. Allot a fixed time for social media apps. I am incredibly active in the digital spaces, but not too many people know that I only spend about 20 minutes every day posting stuff and answering questions. I do spend a lot of time reading, researching, and preparing lessons.

Manage your notifications

The most life-changing thing you can do is turn off your notifications or perhaps leave one or two essential apps. Essential means these are apps you have permitted to interrupt you when you are with your family or in the middle of the meeting. There are only two notifications that are important to me. When somebody calls me, I wear a band that vibrates to notify me that I have a call, it also vibrates to inform me that I have an SMS, and apart from these two, I have absolutely no other notification.

I do not want to lose my attention span. The ability to focus has become an acquired skill. It has kept me going all these years, and if the experts say that this will be the most crucial skill needed for the 21st century, then it is important to me, and so it is for you.

Somebody came up with an experiment. This person claims that people don’t even pay attention. He or she says: “I bet you $13456324567 dollars you didn’t read that number. You just skipped right over it. You didn’t even realize I put a letter in it. No, I didn’t, but you went back and looked.” If you caught that, then you are ok. If not, then you might want to keep a goldfish as a pet and study its attention span.



(Connect with Francis Kong at www.facebook.com/franciskong2. Or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 DZFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)


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