Too Much Stimulation: Overtaxing our Attention Span & the Need for Breaks

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Think RechargeBombarded by push notifications, emails and missed calls, it seems that there are more distractions than ever keeping you from getting work done. How do you increase your attention span to keep the your productivity flowing? Though it might seem counter-intuitive, sometimes the best thing you can do for your attention span is to take a break.

Much like the way our bodies need sleep to function optimally- our attention span needs rest as well. An article in the New York Times, describes the attention span this way: 

“Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, says John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.” 

Thinking about the attention span as a muscle helps us to better understand our limits as well as how to maximize our focus potential. The knowledge of how concentration really works frees us from the guilt we feel stepping away from our desks, even for just a few minutes.

If focusing feels like an uphill battle, getting your body moving is a great way to recharge. Take a trip to the coffee shop or simply walk around the block. Bursts of inspiration often come when our bodies are moving- it is thought that Einstein came up with his theory of relativity on a bicycle. Already on a roll? No need to disrupt your flow with unnecessary breaks. The real drain on your energy comes from forcing yourself to trudge on when you are mentally tapped.

So go ahead. Take a break without even a twinge of guilt. Then, once you have recharged, get back to your desk, turn off your notifications and get to work!

This is a major focus of our theme. Read our previous thoughts on it here. We’ll be featuring many other ways you can recharge and get balanced during SMW14. Make sure you register for our events like Morning Yoga with BreatheRepeat or The Third Metric.

Featured images courtesy wadem and Rennett Stowe

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