We're all goldfish now

A decade of smartphone usage has left many of us with attention spans shorter than goldfish, an average of just eight seconds according to recent research.

If you’re reading this in the margins alongside another activity, come back later and give it your full attention.

Competing demands for our attention can be distinctly unhelpful when it comes to keeping things done at work or while studying (or just keeping sane).

Training our minds to focus helps us get things done and simultaneously makes us feel better.

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to improve your ability to get the important things done, try these tips from our coaching team to help you get started: 

1.       Get rid of obvious distractions

Yes, we mean turning off those notifications from apps on your phone (new mail, news alerts, anything social media related), keeping your phone out of your eyeline while you’re working on core activities, and finding somewhere quiet to focus while you work. 

2.       Stop multitasking

Giving one activity your whole attention just works better and is simply more polite in group activities. Resisting the temptation to check-in with other activities helps you focus and participate in your main task at hand.

Other participants in your Zoom call may not be able to see you check your messages, but they’ll certainly be able to notice your reduced attention to the conversation.

3.       Use your calendar to organise your to-do list

To-do lists are great for getting things out of your head and committed to paper, but once on the list tasks can easily become things that are always due to be completed tomorrow.

Committing a definite time to each activity and putting it in your diary means you’ll have focussed time available for getting this activity completed, in its own space free of distractions.

4.       Focus on routine

Concentrated activity on a regular basis provides the underpinnings for success whether you apply these techniques at work, home or school.

Routine helps build concentration by increasing our minds expectation that activities get our attention at set times. Having defined periods for each activity on a regular basis helps build short-term concentration and longer-term results, especially for projects like studying that typically have more open-ended timescales for completion of individual activities.

5.       Balance work with exercise, down time and sleep

We all concentrate better when we’re feeling refreshed. Road safety experts equate driving while tired to having a similar impact on our concentration to having had a couple of drinks, which isn’t something anyone would recommend.

Making sure that you’re prioritising exercise time, relaxation, wellbeing and sleep alongside your work activities protects against burnout.

6.       Keep yourself accountable

Using tools such as trackers can help provide the structure for measuring focus and provide the discipline for keeping focussed on building concentration to help get things done.


Sharing your plans with others is a major contributing factor in getting things done, it’s one of the reasons why our Learning Coaches focus on building accountability into our students’ study plans.