Natural Arc

I have an unusually short attention span for reading. That’s strange because I love to read, was an early reader, and, by contrast, I’m an unusually rapid and effective reader. Still, that short attention span is kind of a drag.

If I have two hours worth of reading to do, I have to break it up in 15-minute increments throughout the day. I can’t maintain focus and comprehension for a two-hour period no matter how scheduled and defended the time is. My attention will only last 15 minutes.

I took this up with a renowned psychiatrist. He had an M.D. and a Ph.D. I asked him how I could change this. Doctor Doctor said, “Be born to different parents.”

Accept the things you can’t change. Adapt.

Do you know how long your attention spans are?

My use of attention span(s) plural is a deliberate choice. We used to think attention was a single thing. Now we know we have multiple attention spans that activate randomly from one another.

All this ambiguity is what makes focus so hard. It was hard enough before billion-dollar industries formed to harvest our attention.

All is not lost.

Here’s a first step toward control:

One of your attention spans is for reading. Find it thus:

Next time you have something to read, note the time and begin reading. Continue until you catch your attention drifting off. Return to reading.

When you recognize you’re doing more work trying to hold your attention than you are for actual reading comprehension, stop and note the time.

You’ve just measured your natural span for processing text. It’s as reliable as the number of sit ups you can do: it won’t vary much.

Here’s the reframing. Do you struggle to hold attention and focus? Or do you have short periods of crystalline clarity you can deploy throughout the day.

Email us and we’ll send you a questionnaire that will measure the strength of your attentional processes.

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