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attention training

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Attention training is a technique or system designed to help people focus on the issue at hand, concentrate more effectively, procrastinate less and make better decisions in less time. Attention is related to mindfulness, but whereas mindfulness training is designed to help the individual be immersed in the present moment, attention training is task-oriented. Nevertheless, mindfulness training and meditation have both been found to improve our ability to stay focused for longer.

Increasing our attention spans allows us to accomplish more in less time. That means not only that we’re more productive, but also that we may have more time for ourselves and better life-work balance.

Attention training is part of the practical component of metacognition, self-regulation, which involves monitoring cognitive processes and patterns, detecting sub-optimal states and applying remedial methods to improve them.

Here are a few attention training tips:

  1. Commit to focusing on a given task for a realistic time period. Set a timer and continue until the timer goes off. Take a timed break, ideally doing something unrelated to the task and that, ideally, does not require the same type of focus. Gradually increase the length of time for the work time periods.
  2. When you have the urge to do something unrelated to the task, like checking the weather or searching for some information, make a note of it so you remember to do it when the work period is over.
  3. Limit potential distractions by, for example, turning off your phone and using an app to block websites where you might tend to spend too much time.
  4. Look after your physical needs, such as adequate sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercise. You'll be in a better mental and physical state for concentrated effort.
  5. Practice memorizing things, such as lists and poems.
  6. Repeatedly bringing the attention back to the breath (for example) during meditation helps us exert more control over our cognitive processes at other times.
  7. Cultivate mindfulness by repeatedly bringing your attention back to the present moment throughout the day when you find yourself running on auto-pilot.
This was last updated in November 2018

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