How can we increase the attention span

Attention: 8 helpful tips for more vigilance

A lot can distract attention from what is actually happening - lack of sleep, poor health or an unfavorable work environment. This is annoying when it comes to getting a certain task done as soon as possible. Or when quality plays a major role: Without the necessary concentration, the work falls short of expectations. And with reduced vigilance, things can get tricky and sometimes even dangerous. What you can do to increase your awareness ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Definition: What did attention and vigilance mean?

Attention means the targeted perception of the environment, we direct our awareness to a person or thing. To do this, we filter various impressions and decide which thing actually deserves priority. For example, in a conversation we can listen intently to our counterpart, pay attention to words and body language and respond appropriately. This works even at large trade fairs or conferences with many participants: In psychology, people know about the ability to perceive selectively. This is also the case with selective listening: we simply block out certain sound sources (voices and laughter of other people present) in order to be able to concentrate on the conversation partner (cocktail party effect). Attention is also shown in the job: you direct your focus and your energy to the set goal and block out distractions as far as possible.

Numerous synonyms such as tension, Fixation or vigilance describes the interest in something in a certain context. Mindfulness, for example, primarily relates to inner states of mind. Or, you might as well focus your attention on something outside of your thoughts and feelings. A technical term for a special form of attention is vigilance. What is meant is an alertness or alertness in which the person can exercise an activity at a monotonous stimulus frequency over a longer period of time. The prerequisite for this are external stimuli but also internal conditions such as the level of motivation.

Different types of attention

When we pay attention, cognitive sub-processes take place. Even if it seems: We are rarely completely inattentive, even if, in the case of distractions, it is complained that someone is not concentrating. In truth, however, the focus is only on something else. Different types of attention can be identified and applied depending on the situation. These include the following types:

  • Sustained attention
    The ability, mentioned at the beginning, to be vigilant for a long time even under very monotonous conditions (vigilance).
  • Focused attention
    Also called selective attention - means that we can focus particularly on one thing and analyze it. We can hide possible distractions.
  • Divided attention
    Multitasking in the sense that we are 100 percent attentive to several tasks at the same time is impossible. But not every handshake requires 100 percent - for example, you can answer a phone call and at the same time look for the requested information on the computer.
  • Visual-spatial attention
    Here someone changes their focus to a new stimulus. This can be done by moving your head or eyes so that others can see it. It is also possible that it remains undetected by others because, for example, the person you are talking to is staring at you all the time but is listening to the conversation at the next table.

Disruptions: We are only attentive to a limited extent

Our attention is not infinite. Again and again we find ourselves drifting off in daydreams and being completely different in our minds. Boredom overwhelms many, especially when it comes to routine tasks, which is why attention decreases and symptoms of fatigue occur. All of this is still in the normal framework; Disorders can arise due to illness, as in ADHD, or the result of an accident. Such disturbances are less welcome in everyday working life or in learning phases.

It is all the more important to increase the attention span. This can be seen well in various media, for example: cuts are getting faster and faster, visual and acoustic stimuli are used to attract the consumer's attention as much as possible. How are attention, perception and awareness related? By focusing on one thing, we perceive certain things. Thus we are aware of these things, the situation or a certain event. Attention requires perception, which in turn requires awareness.

Attention Tests: Mackworth Clock Test Measures Vigilance

In psychology there are various tests (for example Stroop test) to measure the attention of people. It's not just about reaction time, but also visual perception and spatial imagination. Such tests are particularly important in the healthcare sector when it comes to detecting health problems such as dementia, damage after an accident or psychological problems such as depression and anxiety disorders.

The vigilance test is about finding out the extent to which vigilance is impaired, for example by insomnia. Such tests are therefore carried out in the sleep laboratory. One of the most well-known tests among the vigilance tests is the Mackworth clock test. The British psychologist Norman Mackworth developed it in 1940 to measure the attention of Royal Air Force pilots during World War II. It is intentionally set up monotonously and protracted, so that the test person has to react appropriately to sudden stimuli.

In the Mackworth Clock Test, 24 circles are arranged like a clock. A black dot jumps from one circle to the next, but sometimes it skips a circle. It is the task of the test person to react at this moment and to press a button. The decisive factor for this test was not the perception itself, but the constant attention over a longer period of time.

Gain the interest of others

Another aspect is that in various situations in life we ​​have an interest in attracting the attention of others. For example, with applications when an applicant wants to stand out from the competition. In professional life, when someone gives a presentation or a speech where they want to win over the audience. Companies try just as well through advertising and salespeople through targeted addressing to arouse interest in their products. You can get attention by following these basic tips:

  1. Know your target audience
    An apprentice applying for a management position is just as wrong as a salesperson advertising the wrong products. Older customers will be less interested in baby products, while vegans will hardly be interested in consumer goods of animal origin. Just as an applicant needs to carefully analyze the job profile, a salesperson should keep an eye out for potential customers.
  2. Use keywords
    Keywords play an essential role in this. With short, concise terms you send a signal directly to your counterpart. Anyone who has mastered the technical language of a certain industry seems to have expertise - at least more than someone who does not use it.
  3. Point out the benefits
    Inform your contact person about the specific added value that he or she will get from it. A company is not just looking for an employee, but an employee who can solve its problems. Just like a customer doesn't just buy any product, but one that meets their quality expectations and budget. The decoy effect can be used to find out exactly where the latter is.

Benefits of increased alertness

In certain situations, special attention is required - this applies to the meeting as well as to exam situations. At the same time, it happens that people overlook the benefits:

Prevented Hazards

Even a slight inattention on the way to work can lead to an accident with potentially fatal consequences. Fatigue or monotony can result in less vigilance, which is why special vigilance is required: You have to be mentally present at all times in order to be able to act adequately in the event of a sudden stimulus (deer on the street or wrong-way driver). Anyone who handles dangerous substances at work, operates large machines or works in potentially dangerous locations (for example in a laboratory) must be constantly careful. And statistics know: Most accidents happen in the home. So if you use tools at home or handle boiling water, you should be careful at this moment.

Improved results

Some trivial tasks require little attention, but when it comes to important challenges and projects, a lot of attention is a success factor. Only those who are fully involved can avoid careless mistakes, recognize potential difficulties early on and react to them. Overall, a high level of attention improves the quality of results in all areas. In addition, you perform the better faster because you are less distracted and interrupted.

Collegial help

Attention doesn't always have to be focused on yourself. At work, in particular, it is advisable to keep an eye on the entire team and the collaboration. In this way you not only recognize the current developments, but can also offer your help in a targeted manner. If you turn a blind eye to the work and the progress of your colleagues, you cannot notice when another employee might need a little support. Your own results are important to be successful in your job, but the ability to work in a team is just as crucial. Especially with projects, the overall result counts in the end and you make a very good impression if you are responsible for it with your attentive support.

Strengthened Relationships

If you treat your fellow human beings with great attention, you can build better and stronger relationships. This applies both to work with colleagues, but of course especially in private life with friends and partners. Paying attention to others is always a sign of respect and shows that you value the other person and take them seriously. In addition, attention promotes your perception of emotions and needs. In this way you can understand your fellow human beings better and respond to them in a more targeted manner.

5 tips on how to be more attentive

A high level of vigilance cannot be sustained indefinitely. At some point your thoughts wander, your concentration decreases. To a certain extent, this is normal. However, if you often have difficulty focusing on things, you can train your attention with these five tips:

1. Make sure you get enough sleep

Sufficient sleep is one of the most important requirements for a high level of alertness. It takes a lot of mental effort to keep paying attention for a long period of time. If you are tired, you will soon run into trouble and be inattentive. This is the experience of drivers who drive at night, for example. When you are well rested and full of energy, you increase your alertness.

2. Take enough breaks

What sleep does at night can be achieved with regular breaks during the day. You recharge your batteries, give your head a little rest from the constant exertion and can change your mind. Even a short break can make a big difference. You can then concentrate fully on a task again.

3. Eat a balanced diet

Food is the energy supplier for your body and thus another building block for your attention. Those who eat a healthy and balanced diet are not only doing their body and health a favor, they are also improving alertness. So-called brain food in particular has a positive effect on performance. Also, make sure you drink enough water. It should be at least around 1.5 liters a day so that attention does not suffer.

4. Eliminate distractions

Distractions are a great enemy of attention. You have just been fully engaged in the matter, suddenly you are thinking about something completely different and your perception is already occupied with another topic. Therefore, in order to gain and maintain alertness, you should eliminate possible distractions. Put the phone on mute, close the door and ask not to be disturbed.

5. Use concentration exercises

Training and practice are required to improve concentration in the long term. Try different concentration exercises that can increase your alertness. For example, try spelling difficult words backwards or counting the number of times the letter on a newspaper page T occurs. This requires a lot of attention and trains the ability.

What other readers have read about it

[Photo credit: FGC by Shutterstock.com]