Imagine sitting cross-legged on the floor. Your meditation class is about to begin. You’re supposed to breathe and only breathe. Don’t think! Stop. Breathe...
What a scenario, huh?
Well... many of us have experienced similar situations when our thoughts randomly invade our thinking space. Did you know that an average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds? How many seconds was it in 2013? You won’t believe... 8... This news are frightening, but true. We do find it harder to focus and stay focused!
Attention is a necessity in enabling learning processes, however, with our brain naturally shifting focus 4 times a second, that’s definitely not an easy task. We constantly encounter external and internal distractions. We are surrounded by mobile devices which can randomly send us message notifications. We can also daydream, rethink past situations, think about friends or what we're going to have for dinner tonight. Just like that, without any particular reason.
Let’s stay positive! Paying attention is a skill that can be developed from early years. Human beings have been given an incredibly plastic brain. It learns, adjusts, improves; with time and practice. We can develop our attention span by simply sharing attention. A parent can share attention of child‘s learning activities. This will stretch his/her
attention as this little human is stimulated by being asked additional questions, by being emotionally supported in completing the task and by being intellectually challenged. A learning activity can be very much a sharing activity. Let’s relate it to piano practice. We all might say ‘but I don’t know how to play, how will I know if my child makes mistakes’. Is it all about mistakes? It is all about giving attention and sharing the time. Perhaps it’s good to ask how the piano lesson was, whether there was any new piece learnt. Ask your child to play it to you. This all comes down to giving your undivided attention.
Attention processing comes down to 3 activities. Alerting attention happens when we become attentive. We sit down at the piano, ready to do some practice. Orienting attention is when we direct our attention towards this one activity we are supposed to do. Executive control happens when we decide to stay focused despite distractions. How can we enhance this process? We can prepare our working space. Regardless of it being a desk or a piano, declutter it. Eliminate interruptions by switching off the tv in the background, or simply closing the door. Keep natural lighting where possible, reserve this area for work only. Some of you might say that you can multitask. Is multitasking that good for you though? Actually, science says that multitasking is bad for the brain and it makes us less efficient. I recently started developing a new working routine. I do 25 minutes of focused work where my phone is away and I take a 5 minutes break. During these 5 minutes I am allowed to do anything but work. Some of you might need more work time than that, or perhaps even less. That’s fine. We are all different. By doing these little things for our brain, we are able to improve our attention span and therefore improve our quality and efficiency of work.