Are you struggling with that back-to-work feeling? Finding it hard to stay focused after the summer holidays? Research shows we are all more distracted than ever before. According to a study by Harvard University, people spend 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. In fact research shows our attention span has markedly decreased in recent years. In 2000 it was 12 seconds, whereas 15 years later it had shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds.
The good news is that your attention as like a muscle – the more you practise focusing on your attention, the stronger it will become. Thankfully, there are mental exercises you can do to strengthen your brain circuitry to improve your attention span and be present in the moment. So, if you’re finding it difficult to stay focused, try out the following mindfulness techniques to help you:
Conscious breathing: Take 60 seconds to focus solely on your breathing. Try to do this several times a day. Notice your in-breath and your out-breath. Your goal is to develop one minute of clear, focused attention.
Conscious observation: Pick an object and focus your attention on it. It could be a pen on your desk or a picture on the wall. Observe it carefully, staying present in the moment. Try not to think about the future or the past.
Eating mindfully: Slow down when you eat and take the time to appreciate how the food looks, smells and tastes. By savouring each bite in this way, you will learn how to calm your mind and give each task your undivided attention.
It’s only by becoming aware of when your mind drifts and consciously bringing it back to the here and now, that you can make the best use of the time available to you. After all, as business guru Michael Altshuler wisely said, “The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.” By learning how to focus your attention on the present, you will reap the rewards of improved productivity and increased performance.