A Short Attention Span

“Hello, are you listening?”

For those of us who have a short attention span, this is a question that we are frequently asked. This Tuesday, I was speaking to my cousin about it as I was interested to learn and compare situations in which we can feel, knowingly or unknowingly, our attention drifting off and how often this happens. I’ve experienced a massive drop in the duration of my attention span since the start of Ramadan last year. It has always been bad since I was a child but lately I feel as though it is getting worse. So, I’m enlisting your help by listing situations to decide whether it really is that bad or if indeed perhaps there is some hope!

  • I struggle watching slow-paced films no matter how amazing many find it. Case in point: The Godfather. I remember it took me a long while to watch it and while I was blown away by some parts of the film, I remember my mind not being present for the most part. Strangely, I was able to pay attention watching Scarface whereas The Goodfella’s was far too fast-paced. Perhaps, a certain type of pace just works better for me?
  • The amount of times I’ve had to re-read a single paragraph because it got me thinking about something else is a huge problem for me. This also applies to watching stand-up comedy where I recall having to rewind around 5 times or more for a small portion of a sketch because my mind was elsewhere. But you know what the worst is? Descriptive sentences. I am not talking about emotional depth but sensory overload. An example that comes to mind is the description of the Annexe in Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. My mind became a blur and stop lights were drawn, it was so overwhelming that the visual aid provided in the next page didn’t help. I was too exhausted to take it in. My mind needed a rest.

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  • I remember working in administration where I had to perform repetitive tasks to the point I felt like a zombie and going home and crying my eyes out. Although, my quality of work was good, it was more down to my problem-solving skills and efficient approach. So, I’ve been noticing recently that neither my heart nor mind likes focusing on repetitive tasks.
  • I’m terrible at remembering dates unless they have emotional significance to me (I will remember your favourite colour though). Scratch that, because I forgot it was my own birthday for two years in a row even though I had made plans for it. The worst is perhaps forgetting appointments. I was supposed to go for an important doctor’s appointment and, ironically, one to talk about my attention span, a few times this year and even though I wrote it down on the calendar on my phone and set up alerts, I still forgot them. I am hopefully going to try something new though like placing papers on my wall which will have the appointments written on them.

forget

  • Losing items. This is something everyone in my family complains about and no amount of organisation seems to help because I instantly forget where I’ve placed something. Bedrooms usually contain more items which might be why it gets very confusing. Despite that, my family always pressure me to organise everyone’s birthday party as if only they find it stressful. You’re not the only one. Sometimes I feel like I’m their second mum and they don’t even think to ask if I’d even like to do it. After July, any relative who asks me to organise an event for them is on wafer thin ice.
  • Taking on a huge project but once I must get to the detailed and tougher parts, I’ll dive into other, easier projects instead and I mean multiple projects. I have procrastinated on one project for over a year now and I’m not even George R.R. Martin, like how dare you, my mind? Getting down to the nitty, gritty makes me seriously anxious because I don’t want to mess it up by making the wrong decisions. Perhaps this is more an issue of self-doubt than attention span?
  • I take the easy way out in group settings sometimes by tuning out a conversation if I know it requires full focus because I know that surely someone else will listen. Don’t worry though, if it something serious and I feel I can help then I will contribute but if it is not, then it is time for my mind to be one with the fairies.

peter pan

  • When I attended lectures and seminars, I used to zone out within 15-30 seconds. Never have I ever worked so hard on trying to focus on what was being said than I did at university, it took me all my energy to zone back in. Weirdly, if I am interested in a subject and usually it is when it is a more humanities-based topic, I’ll have laser-focus to the point that I won’t let the topic drop. The concentration is unreal. I remember for one subject that I absolutely loved I even did the further reading that wasn’t even required. Good luck shutting me up when I am interested.
  • I remember since my second year at university, I have had trouble sleeping because my thoughts were racing from one subject to another with little to no relation and struggling to get my mind to focus to go to sleep. Unfortunately, I used to have 4/5 early morning starts for three years in a row, went to sleep between 5am-7am and balanced a job at the same time (two jobs in my final year). Luckily for me, a few years later, I finally started taking medication to tackle this specifically and it has helped a lot.
  • Sometimes I zone out when I’m talking. MAN, I can go on tangents, don’t ask me a question that requires a straightforward answer if you value your sanity. This is one reason why I love the internet because I can actually remember what I was asked because, hello, it’s written right there in front of my very own eyes.

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  • I love dancing, I really do. But the dance tutorials I follow are very quick and it’s not easy for me to remember the sequences even if my eyes are glued to the screen. I do wish they would take this into account because I find myself having to repeat the tutorial many times in order to at least remember half of it. This is why I especially love dancing when there’s no choreography.
  • On a positive note, I can pay attention when I’m brainstorming. I think this is because it makes me so happy to generate ideas and possibilities. I’m ecstatic. I am the most me when I brainstorm. I remember coming up with ten ideas in the space of a minute or two and weirdly remembering them all when I sketched them out. For some reason, this is also one of the few times that I can come up with a comprehensive plan.

So, guys, my cousin thinks that this isn’t normal whereas I think it’s pretty normal. Sure, some of it is problematic but I do feel that for the most part that it’s more a case of selective attention as I know that I can focus on things I love but some things which are detail-heavy can throw things out of balance. I also think that it’s perhaps my anxiety which has been present since childhood that can make me forgetful at times.

The other question I want to ask you is what tips and advice do you have that you think will work for me? I really want this to get better especially as I do not want to miss out on opportunities and better health because of this. It needs to improve ASAP.

37 Comments

  1. Oh gosh! I have this too! sometimes I am reading and I start wondering about what I did during the day or what I will be doing next day XD hahaha I can’t hold birthdays neither phone numbers hahaha I cannot have planners because I will forget them… my phones is my personal assistance XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t worry, I hear this is quite normal now especially since as adults we have busy schedules and always alert to what we need to be doing! XD Busy bees 🐝. Lucky that your phone is helpful at the very least, mine is still not doing anything, I’ve forgotten my last ten appointments even after using my phone. 😭😭

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I need and I want a BB Keyone and my business will be ready haha sometimes mine gives me a Break and all about my tasks too xD
        Busy bees ! I am like the whole Hive haha

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  2. This problem I guess occurs with me too, esp being occupied with other thought when I am reading.
    I have a attention deficit kind of problem. Lol
    I researched a bit and it’s can be overcome by following some rules.
    Like using the left side of body more, its the sunnah of Prophet pbuh he used to use both side of hand while dressing up a new dress alternatively, you need to refer to that. Small brain exercises you know.
    Very intriguing read for me. Wow. Wish you good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, there is no one be better to be followed than our Prophet of God pbuh. True that.
        Yep, making use of left side of our body is really beneficial along with the right side.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no… 😞 I thought going through the comments that perhaps it’s normal after all and relieved because my cousin almost convinced me that I might have early dementia. 🤦‍♀️ Will book an appointment soon and thank you for your help. ❤️

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      1. I wouldn’t go as far as dementia. Honestly it’s probably a technology problem. Instant gratification and all that. We’ve probably just accustomed ourselves to that and when we’re not interested, zoom! We immediately zone out. It’s the sleeping problems that worry me. It could be your anxiety acting up!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I used to live in a small town, but I was a student my whole life and that life was stressful! Now I live in Vancouver, which is quite big, and what I’ve realized is where ever you live, you end up spending most of your time in a small area, so the neighbourhood is more important in my opinion. I have to say though, traffic made me really anxious, so I started biking to work. It’s lovely.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ohhhh Canada 🇨🇦, ah it sounds like a wonderful place. That’s completely true, your neighbours and the neighbourhood are part of that whole experience and everything follows from that. Biking is better for sure, good for your health! Stay safe on the roads, I know it sounds silly to say but it’s important. X

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  3. I have a short attention span, too.
    A list of many examples:
    Someone will ask me a favor, I’ll agree, then forget as soon as I walk out of the room.
    Sometimes I’ll be zoned out and one of my closest friends will start talking to me and I will bluff out “Who are you?”
    Yesterday, I was in band class, zoned out, and I looked at the conductor’s hands, which he was waving around, and I thought “What are those weird growths on his hands?” And then a second later, “Oh my god. They’re fingers”
    Or I’ll tune out in the middle of a conversation.
    Or I’ll plan to do something and forget in under ten seconds.
    And a million other examples.
    I think it’s the most disorientating when you zone back in. Sort of like “Where am I?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dude, I feel you with all those examples, especially the forgetting when someone asks you a favour… people should stop asking, especially if it’s something they should do themselves, it’s quite rude tbh. We’re out here struggling ourselves, ask but ask reasonably.
      I’m a bit jealous about the noticing his fingers, I wouldn’t notice details like that. 💔

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I would do the following: disconnect, unplug, set significant portions of your day apart to be device-free. Part of what’s causing your problem is the habits you’ve developed vis-a-vis email, blogging, social media, and television. Second: learn how to do some form of mindfulness meditation and practice it every day. And as Suziey Bravo advised, it may be a good idea to talk to your general practitioner about it and ask for an appropriate referral to a specialist. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the wonderful advice! I’m definitely going to try the device free suggestion this Saturday to see if it helps! I don’t use my phone a lot if I have tbh, not even with friends, phones away, time to connect but I want to try it anyway. Meditation I’ve tried plenty of times… Just was a disaster. I’m going to see until June to see if I can do device-free days and if it doesn’t work, then time for the doctors ASAP. Thank you, once again. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I also struggle while I try to focus on a paragraph and have to read it twice. I have problems with reading descriptions and watching slow paced and needlessly dragged bits of information. I feel it might be normal to unable to focus on repetitive tasks and brain-storming tasks are done comparatively easy. But as for your sleeping problems, if you have it still, maybe you should consult a doctor. Wishing good luck for your health!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So relieved to know that I’m not the only one but sorry for you too (confused people unite ✊🏼). Omg, needlessly dragged information and overly descriptive sentences are annoying and the worst… do we really need to know the exact colour of the wardrobe? Exactly how someone smiled? Why, why?!
      Perhaps, brainstorming is just good fun for everyone (as it should be)! 🙌🏼
      Sleeping is a lot better, and thank you! 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ” do we really need to know the exact colour of the wardrobe? Exactly how someone smiled? Why, why?!” I totally agree. I don’t care why the wall is chipped off paint, how someone shrugs, how someone’s eyes twinkle, etc. Just get to the point!
        Confused people have really united!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a similar issue. I’ve come to learn of the idea of a sentinel personality. People who are easily distracted are sentinels. The mind quickly assesses the stimulus. Threat? No Threat? Resource or no? Then moves on looking for the next stimulus to assess. In tribal times we were the guards and scouts for the rest of tribe because if something changes in the environment we are the first to notice. Our minds are not trapped what the others are paying attention to. There’s little call for this talent in the modern world so people who do not understand our think I’ll of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But can they be sentinels if they’re not even tuned into their surroundings at all? Even if danger occurs, they, like me, would not even be aware of it. I’m worried because I’m not perceptive, in comparison to my friends and family who are incredibly alert… it’s a little draining.

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      1. I am considered to be ADD by some. I have a hard time blocking out the background noise in a crowded room. I hear bits and pieces of each conversion which I find distracting. People think I’m tuning them out but I’m not. I’m just distracted. In a sentinel situation that means that anything that changes grabs my attention. It actually causes problems on my day job and it’s almost impossible to explain to someone who isn’t one or another expert in psychology.

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        1. Considered is not diagnosis, Lloyd, so I don’t want to be using strong terms that do not equate to people who are diagnosed with ADD (I don’t know if they would be happy with others just using it easy breezy), it would be like someone just generalising Anxiety and dumbing it down to nerves… when the reality is hard, anxiety is not fun at all, same with distraction, I think we all get distracted (look at the comments above) be it socially or in the workplace. My brother is a sentinel personality type (I’ve been reading about it for a while now), a very obvious sentinel and he gets distracted very often but he’s still tuned into danger … and I’m envious of that. I can’t do that. That’s my worry, you’ll still be tuned into that, I won’t.

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