In the last two decades, our attention span seems to have dwindled, making it difficult for us to engage in activities that once seemed effortless, such as writing a letter or a long e-mail. This shrinking of attention span is not just a figment of our imagination, but a reality supported by research conducted by Dr. Gloria Mark, an expert in the field of attention.
Attention span can be divided into two forms; top-down attention, where we consciously decide where to focus our attention, and bottom-up attention, where our environment dictates what we pay attention to, such as loud noises, bright lights, or notifications on our phones. Switching our attention from one task to another can result in errors, take more time, and cause stress, all of which hamper productivity.
To develop more agency over our attention, we can use four tips. The first is to identify the time of day when we are most alert and schedule our most challenging tasks for that period. There are online tests available to help determine our optimal time of day. The second tip is to develop meta-awareness, which involves becoming conscious of our automatic actions and probing ourselves to understand why we engage in those actions. So, every time you go to grab your phone, you can probe yourself and ask; why do I feel a need to do that, why do I feel a need to switch screens and go to read news or go to social media? Is it because I am bored? Is it because what I am doing is too hard, or is it simply a habit? Once you become aware of it and understand the reasons, this can help curtail it.
The third tip is to focus on our goals and continually remind ourselves of them, preferably with the help of technology such as calendar reminders or project management tools. By setting reminders and regularly checking in with our goals, we can stay on track and maintain our attention on the tasks that matter most. Finally, taking a 10-minute break, preferably outdoors in nature, can help us destress and generate new ideas. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on our well-being and enhance our cognitive abilities.
It is crucial to achieve a psychological balance when using technology because it is not going away. Completely disengaging from digital technology is not a long-term solution, as it can cut us off from important work communications and loved ones. Instead, we should learn to control our attention and develop agency, so we can use technology positively and feel positive when doing so.
In conclusion, our attention span is shrinking, which can lead to errors, stress, and reduced productivity. However, by following the four tips mentioned above, childcare supervisors in Ontario can develop more agency over their attention and improve their overall well-being when using technology. By understanding their optimal alertness periods, practicing meta-awareness, focusing on goals, and taking regular breaks, supervisors can enhance their attention management skills and create a more productive and balanced work environment.