May I Have Your Attention…Please?

Recently, CBS Sunday Morning featured a story on our shrinking attention span. Obviously, this is not a new topic; in fact I’ve been writing about it for years. That said, were a few takeaways and reminders worth highlighting.

Psychologist and attention span researcher, Dr. Gloria Mark, provided an interesting statistic. When her team researched attention spans two decades ago, on average the people in the study shifted attention every two and a half minutes.

Today, however, the average attention span has decreased to 47 seconds!

This report was not a dig against technology. Indeed, the impact of technology will only increase in our lives. Rather, it was a reminder that how we manage our attention span is essential not just for productivity but for our wellbeing.

Dr. Mark cited three things that happen because of reduced attention span. First, people make more mistakes. Second, tasks take longer to accomplish due to the need to reorient our attention. Finally, stress levels increase from the physiological changes in our bodies in reaction to the swift shifts in attention.

This can become more pressing the higher you rise in the leadership ranks. You don’t want to put yourself in the situation where you overlook key aspects of a decision because you are distracted by a ping for a text.

One of the antidotes to this is practicing mindful attention. If you stay focused on the issue presently at hand – not what is happening in your next meeting or the conversation you had ten minutes ago – you will make better decisions and feel calmer because your mind isn’t jumping around.

Header image by Christina Morillo/

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