You may have heard this alarming statistic: the human attention span is down to eight seconds, which is less than that of the average goldfish!
The good news is that this is not true. However, it does seem to rationalise my vague sense of not having enough attention to give to all the things demanding and/or deserving of my attention. This post looks at why I (and you, perhaps) might feel this strain on our attention.
Note* Attention-deficit-disorder (ADD) negatively affects focus, memory, organising and follow-through. I use it here colloquially, in the sense that people who do not have the clinical condition may still experience some of these symptoms. Read: Do I Have ADD?
There is more information to process
Information is more abundant and accessible than it has ever been before. This wealth of information creates “poverty of attention” and gives rise to FOMO, because we can only fear missing out once we know what we’re missing out on.
“Information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” – Herbert Simon.
Businesses are stealing your attention
This sounds like a conspiracy theory and for many years, it was. Finally, techies themselves are raising ethical concerns about the attention economy – where entire businesses are built on algorithms that arrest your attention, perhaps without your conscious permission. Neuroscience shows that it hijacks the brain’s serotonin pathways, essentially drugging us into watching/ swiping/ scrolling just once more… Check out this video if you don’t believe me:
You’re living someone else’s values
This is a tough one to accept, especially when we attach importance to being busy. But would you rather be busy or productive? Being productive means working on the things that are most important to YOU. If you often feel like there’s never enough time in the day, the chances are you are compromising at least one of your highest values. We all have the same amount of time, and it is limited. I no longer manage my time. I manage my priorities.
It takes tremendous attention and awareness to flourish as a human being today. This is why mindfulness is becoming an essential skill. Follow this series for more posts on modern mindfulness and how it can enrich your lived experience.
What is distracting you in your everyday life? Tell me in the comments below!
About the writer: Yagesh is an actuary and yogini, devoted to building a wellbeing economy. Contact her for personalised lessons or corporate workshops.