The average human being has an attention span of just eight seconds—less than half of that of a goldfish.
The world we live in has more distractions than ever before, which makes focus more and more difficult. But that doesn't mean that you're doomed to a goldfish attention span forever. With proper training and some helpful mind hacks, you can take your concentration to a whole new level.
Start by figuring out what you want to focus on. Determine your short- and long-term goals; prioritize them so that you have clear direction, whether for a work assignment, a travel itinerary or a home project. A road map will give you a path to follow. Then use these four strategies to help hone laser-like focus.
1. Try the Wim Hof Method.
A unique combination of mental and physical fitness, this method, named for its founder, embraces cold, physical fitness, and breathing for better health and increased focus. Followers of this method start with breathing exercises, taking 30 or more very deep breaths until a sensation of light-headedness develops. The next step is holding the breath: an exhale and a pause and then another breath in and a pause, holding the breath in and out for as long as possible. This deep belly breathing followed by holding the breath contributes to a whole-body buzz, which can enhance focus immediately. The Wim Hof Method also employs push-ups, a few yoga poses and stretches with continued deep breathing. Finally, it encourages a cold shower to stimulate more epinephrine in the body, boosting the immune system, burning fat, and heightening focus to new levels of attention and concentration.
2. Optimize your temperature (seriously).
If the thermostat in your home, office, or car is below 68 degrees or higher than 77, your focus and productivity will likely suffer, according to a Cornell University study. You probably don’t need a study to tell you that you work, think, and focus better when you are physically comfortable. If, however, you are subject to the whims of corporate temperature control, then wear layers, use fans, or open windows as needed. Do your best to maintain a comfortable environment so that your attention is focused on your project, not the heat or air conditioning.
3. Fuel your body for success.
Even mild dehydration—the kind you might not even notice—can make it hard to pay attention, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Stay hydrated throughout the day. Food can also contribute to hydration (think fruits and vegetables) as well as performance. Avoid the office doughnuts and leftover cookie crumbs and fuel up with lean protein, whole grains, and as many fruits and vegetables as you can. Your body influences your mind, and good nutrition can lead to great performance.
4. Take regular breaks.
No one can focus for eight hours straight, even when it’s on something that they love. Make sure that your day includes breaks, whether for coffee, lunch or even a quick massage. Some of the most productive and focused people in the world swear by the Pomodoro Technique. This easy hack encourages you to break down your work into short, timed intervals. At the end of each interval, take a break. This technique creates structure around your breaks, ensuring you get a little downtime and still get back to work within a reasonable timeframe.
Sometimes you might actually feel like a goldfish, frantically bobbing around in a sea of too many to-do’s. Take the time to focus, breathe, and take care of yourself. Then start to implement these simple, effective tactics to enhance your attention span and productivity.