Overcoming Short Attention Span

Tired, stressed woman showing signs of impatience

Many people are busy today — sometimes really busy! Experiencing a stressful lifestyle can also make us lose focus in the task in front of us. As a species, we seem to have elevated impatience to an art form. We want it, and we want it now! Busy, busy, and busy some more!

The more you come across the topic of "busy-ness", the more you can feel an imaginary heavy weight sitting on your shoulders, weighing you down, and getting heavier as the seconds tick by.

For those employers that celebrate keeping their employees constantly busy, with little "down time", how can such employers ever receive the best value from their employees?

Such employers are:

  • At best, losing money through the creation of poor thinking strategies, crafted from tired, overworked, demotivated worker drones.
  • At worst, their business or organization is perfectly positioned to go downhill and eventually fail. 

For all of us generally, some may be occupied performing what to others might be considered pointless activities, or repeating questionable behavior patterns, or allowing ourselves to be exploited by others — then blaming those same "others" for our current life state, or many other possibilities.

What's The Price Of Keeping You Reading This?

Perhaps a mix of things can make a difference, including:

  • Relevancy: if what I'm talking about relevant.
  • Brevity: you may be busy. You may want to "get to the point now", if not sooner.
  • Interest: you'll want to feel interested. Perhaps people who are curious about the topic of attention span, may show interest long enough to read or scan the page.
  • Benefits: what will benefit us personally often gets our attention. Pictures, videos, presentations, all add beneficial contrast. So we strive to build in benefits. Features too can form part of a benefits package when framed within our self-driven desired.

The cost of getting and keeping the attention of sufficient numbers of people at about the same time, has never been more expensive than today, in monetary terms, time, skill, and effort investment.

So if you develop expertise that can consistently break through the white noise of distractions, as a communicator, without selling your soul, or making huge PR mistakes, you can thrive and find yourself in constant demand.

Key point: for many, learned "busy-ness", tends to push us into developing a really short attention span.

We who choose to immerse ourselves in the business of communication, can complain about this perceived barrier — and gain little sympathy.

Often, we may grumble how we think so many folks "Have the concentration span of a gnat ..." (a sentiment shared to me by a business owner who was experiencing a moment of exasperation).

Or, as writers and enlightened communicators, we can dig deeper, adapt, upgrade, adjust. We have several options. We can choose several approaches, including:

  • Option 1: fight the idea; try to change entrenched perceptions. That's like asking a lion to stop eating meat? Instead we must deal with and respond to reality. 
  • Option 2: ignore the problem. We can take the view that if a reader is deluged in "busy-ness", that's their problem! Except, that's not true. If our target readership, audience, listeners choose not to sufficiently engage with us, the end result is our problem. It's us that need to step up if we wish to overcome our communication hurdles.
  • Option 3: or we can learn more about the lives of the people we are seeking to connect with, and seek to understand better the challenges they face. We can strive to decipher why we the people are the way we are in this 21st century. We can embrace the entire dilemma and simply work with humanity's collective impatience, yet still seek out and apply new, imaginative ways to break through the various "busy-ness" barriers that exist.

That's why Option 3 gets my vote. Understanding and applied study solves most problems, so why not with attention span too?

Sometimes, there is no other practical option. When we strive to understand, we are more likely to break through barriers.

Handy tip: believe, and keep reminding yourself, that there is always a solution to every problem.

How To Communicate Your Thoughts And Ideas And Overcome Short Attention Span

Indeed, just go with the flow. But how?

In a variety of ways. Consider:

  • One quick and easy yet powerful technique that writers and presenters can use is to simply keep your sentences short.
  • Present the focus on one topic at a time.
  • Avoid using long paragraphs — ideally keep each paragraph to no more than 5 or 6 lines.
  • Writing or speaking in short, snappy sentences that are likewise grouped appropriately into easily understandable blocks, makes the activity of reading or listening less demanding, and therefore, making sense of your message can be made much easier for your reader or listener.
  • Use longer, meaningful headings and sub-headings as far as possible and avoid shorter, two- or three-word headings that are less expressive.
  • Break paragraphs into bullet lists — like this one — whenever possible or appropriate.
  • Apply boldface and italics to further focus attention, add emphasis or suggest special meaning.
  • Use white space or empty space help frame your document. How: have generous margins within your document or web design.
  • Use short, snappy snippets of "teaser" or intro information, that point to more in-depth coverage should your users choose that route.
  • Evaluate and question whether your message can be communicated better in other types of medium other than text. Don't assume that written words is the best answer for every publication. You may find that an audio MP3 podcast is more suitable. Or your users or visitors may prefer a video clip published on your website, with live streaming as the default option.
  • Alternatively, even today, you could consider publication to CD or DVD. There may still be instances in which DVD delivery format works best. How to know: understand what works best for your audience or users.
  • Each delivery format has benefits and drawbacks depending on a variety of factors, which also may change over time. Simply consider your options to establish the most suitable publication format.
  • Determine whether you can profitably present your message across several different mediums at the same time. For example: options include: plain text, e-book PDF, Microsoft Word, Web HTML / PHP, MP3 podcast, CD, DVD, web video and RSS. Why? Different people can react differently to different mediums.
  • By expanding on how you deliver information, you can maximize the effectiveness of your publication. Through making careful choices, multiple media delivery can be easier and cheaper than you may think. For example, this website uses RSS. Some years ago, RSS was especially popular. So we were able to cost effectively achieve this goal using a low-cost plug-in component that took only minutes to install and configure, after which all RSS feeds across the entire website were generated automatically "on-the-fly" for each item listed. The rise of social media has largely replaced the need for RSS today.
  • Experiment with short attention span mini-blogging social media tools like Twitter: a generally 140-character limit is tailor-made for our impatient world (even though more than 140 characters is now possible).
  • For website owners, smart multi-channel publication tools can automatically tweet a blog entry for little extra work effort.

With a new approach, adjusted to the technological preferences of your readers, listeners or website visitors, suddenly, people can "get it" — and absorb what you're saying more easily, in ways that better fit into their days.

Crack The Code To Engagement And Live Your Dreams

My best guess: for most people, life is already an unwelcome challenge, so making your reading "easy" or simpler can make you more than just popular. Arguably, it's no accident that encouraging numbers of the world's self-made richest people also happen to be great communicators.

Whether your nature is introverted, or extroverted, makes no difference, if you can crack the code to overcome short attention span today, you can thrive and build the lifestyle of your dreams. 

Playing Chill-Out: Go On, You Know You Want To. And Shooting Laser Beams That Get Results

Now, to really get to empathize with this tip, I highly recommend you spend the next 15 minutes doing nothing in particular — certainly not work and whatever you do, ensure "busy-ness" is banned.

Here's some additional ideas to explore when you can:

  • With a new perspective, notice how clouds drift across the sky.
  • Marvel at the remarkable mix of apparent chaos, grace, and magic of a butterfly in flight (of course, there's always a butterfly available to watch and enjoy isn't there? :-)
  • Observe the first teetering steps of a young child as she learns to walk (and never gives up, simply because she has not yet learned how to stop trying).
  • Notice anew how a blade of grass dances in the breeze.
  • Light a candle. Relish the simple beauty and power of a single flame in the darkness. Then blow your candle out. Notice how the wisps of smoke dance and dissipate in the surrounding air. This is symbolic of how change can happen: sudden, uncompromising, and how new chapters emerge afterwards.
  • Sit comfortably. Relax. Find somewhere silent. Close your eyes and do nothing for 15 minutes. Don't force your thoughts — let them "fall where they may". If you feel uneasy — or a need to "do" something, you're at last observing your current level of busy-ness.
  • Repeat these exercises daily. Pick your own new topics. Watch how the uneasiness disappears eventually.

If you think you don't have time to do any of the suggestions immediately above, I suggest, double up on the time spent doing the above activities. Why: you're more in need of motivational observations and relaxation than some others.

Give yourself the gift of some peace and quiet and "you time" and to better understand why so many have short attention span today.

Then create laser beamed messages that break through the wall of noise and help others solve their problem or improve their lives. 

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