The Remarkably Easy Way to Improve Focus

A widely quoted study from Microsoft, says that the average human attention span is eight seconds, down from twelve in 2000. Scary when you compare that to a goldfish, who apparently has an attention span of nine seconds.

I’ve always thought my attention span was short, I’d use “I’m easily distracted” as an excuse for not being able to concentrate on things for more than a blink of an eye. It wasn’t until I started actually teaching myself to stay focused for longer that I realised it’s a skill like anything else which can be improved (and lost if not practised).

Staying focused on one thing is only getting harder. With the fragmentation of our attention thanks to our Instagram notifications, WhatsApp messages and everything else digital.

In previous Greenwood Journal’s I’ve written about different methods I’ve been using to help myself get better in this area; from the Pomodoro Technique to the GTD Methodthrough to Zero Notifications. But what I’ve found so far, is the best weapon I have is mindful meditation.

Mindfulness is a state of being conscious or aware of what is happening in your mind, body and around you in the present moment. It’s about focusing in on exactly what is happening in the now. The feeling of your bum on a seat, the sound of traffic going past, the emotions you are feeling right then and there.

For me, mindful meditation is the reset button. A slice of time I steal back to start my day, and more and more throughout the day also. Pulling me out of any anxiety about the future, potential outcomes of different made-up scenario’s or thinking about what could have happened in the past.

There are many types of meditation, but I’m only equipped to talk about mindful meditation - which in my opinion is the easiest to start and doesn’t require any training.

I use Headspace, others use Calm (both are Apps). These are subscription services (cheaper than a night out), but you can also try Dan Harris' guided meditation video here. It offers a great introduction to the process. Headspace also has a lovely animated video on meditation.

Here are ten proven benefits of mindful meditation. If you are after the supporting study on any of the below, just let me know.

1. Reduces stress and anxiety
2. Helps create emotional distance
3. Increases test scores
4. Reduces pain
5. Improves your overall mood
6. Boosts attention span and focus
7. Enhances creativity (outside the box thinking)
8. Develops compassion and empathy
9. Helps you sleep better
10. Upgrades your brain

For me, being consistent has been the hardest part. I’ve really been trying to build it into my morning routine each and every day. The day’s I do it, I can tell and vice versa.