I don’t know how to pay attention. I cannot pay attention. I have had this problem since I was a child.
I can’t multitask, I can’t study with music, I can’t sleep (well) with sound or people in the same room and I can’t watch television if someone is speaking next to me. I get distracted extremely fast. If I don’t like something, I can’t read it, I can’t watch it, I won’t listen to it or even understand it. I interrupt people constantly because I don’t know how formulate thoughts as accurately as others. What people learn in an hour, I take days to process. As an adolescent, I couldn’t get myself to listen in a classroom or in lectures. It was impossible for me to focus. For years, I assumed it was a learning disability, or some sort of a challenge, but with time I discovered that it was something manageable.
This is the most appropriate time to bring this up because I think that I’ve finally managed to solve this issue, or at least better understand it. It only took me 28 years. It has troubled me for ages and it was the reason I often failed in school when I was younger. There are too many people who discover this issue well into their adulthood and who are simply deemed by others as being inept academically or intellectually. People’s capacities vary; we all know someone who is very well-spoken but who is horrible at spelling, or another who is extremely achieving but not very social or others who are highly social but who always academically under perform.
We all function at our best in some situations and not so much in others.
This is not an uncommon thing, short attention spans are something lot of people battle and their magnitudes vary from one person to another. I am not going to scientifically break this down because I have no theory to back any of this up, but I think I’ve discovered a way to deal with it rather than eliminate it – because I don’t actually believe that it’s a problem.
Narrowing down the things that you like so you can better understand them.
You don’t like reading the paper? then don’t read it, listen to the news instead. Podcasts!
You don’t like numbers? Screw them! Audiobooks are a fair alternative if you can’t concentrate while reading. If you can’t listen to a lecture, try reading it instead. There are hundreds of solutions out there. If what you like helps you better navigate your attention, then stick to the things that help you better focus, not the things that wear down your attention span.
Maximize on your creativity.
Being easily distracted means that your brained is constantly wired, that you’re very perceptive and often better at absorbing ideas. You think all the time, even in your sleep (light sleepers, I feel you). Take note, jot things down, brainstorm. Short attention spans are often caused by frequent light-bulb moments, keep note so you can revisit them. A creative idea will dissolve if you don’t nail it down and archive it. Sketch it, sing it out loud, tell it to someone. Don’t let ideas disappear.
Read in solitude, work in silence and limit teamwork time. If you’re extroverted like myself you are most likely more focused on conversation rather than work. Interact less with people when working if it infringes your concentration and diminishes the quality of your work.
Manage your energy.
Sleep. And I mean actually sleep. Don’t skip breakfast. Walk all the time.
Talking to yourself is not unhealthy, it’s actually beneficial.
Stress is the worst thing to combine with a short attention span, it actually destroys concentration.
I was relieved to discover that the right habits help me retain information better. I never multitask and it saves my life (literally, my phone is turned off whenever I drive a car). I don’t do work with friends, because I can’t handle distraction. I don’t force myself to resort to ways I don’t enjoy (I won’t sit through a lecture with a monotone presenter). I ask questions, over and over and over. This is not a problem, it’s just a different ability to process information. I don’t lose sleep over it anymore (I mean that in more ways than one).