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Creating with a short attention span

I wanted to take a moment of your time to talk about short attention spans. If you haven’t already switched off, that is. Because in the meantime, you’ve received at least 3 WhatsApp messages. And someone is demanding your attention on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Whichever way you look at it, it’s clear that our capacity to concentrate on anything is rapidly diminishing these days and more than just a part of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of technology. A welcome evolution or something we’re likely to regret 5 years from now? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, this is the reality we have to deal with and we’d be better served finding a solution to it.

Luckily, I have the ‘good fortune’ of having 33 years of experience in the matter. Everyone who has ever tried to teach me or work with me will tell you: I have a short attention span. Very short, even. I have tried to turn that weakness into a strength. And if it has already been a struggle for you to concentrate on my introduction, be sure to keep on reading because this article is for you! For two reasons: firstly because you know better than anyone just how short the new generation’s attention span really is and what it takes to attract and retain that attention. That is incredibly valuable. And secondly, because given the right application of the ‘peaks’ in your attention, you are capable of coming up with some pretty amazing ideas. Beats Rilatine!


So how do you deal with a short attention span? I will try – look, a butterfly! – to offer a few tips below:

  • Never work on just one assignment at a time. Variety is essential! And if you really have just one assignment, split it up into smaller tasks and switch from one to another.
  • Never work next to a window. Especially if it’s open. Even a tree swaying in the wind can draw your attention like a feature-length film.
  • Don’t kid yourself that you can think clearly in a Starbucks. Get that coffee to go.
  • Choose resolutely for a workspace without distractions. And though the world outside may be bathed in glorious sunshine, lock yourself up in the darkest dungeon.
  • Take SM breaks (hmm, sounds kinda kinky if you’re locked up in a dungeon). But fear not: 10 minutes of social media every hour is more than enough to stay up to date. Be strict about taking those breaks. And don’t feel guilty: breaks are as important as concentration.
  • Do something completely different. Normal people will never be able to understand but sometimes you can think clearer while watching a movie, throwing a ball against the wall or doing pushups. Just go ahead and do it.
  • Write down every idea. Just because you’re fed up with an idea doesn’t mean it’s worthless.
  • Choose your moment. Chances are it’ll be outside office hours. Get up at 4am or go to bed at 4am if that’s what it takes. (But don’t try and do both.)
  • You are at your most productive the night before the presentation. But the same doesn’t necessarily apply to your co-workers. Set yourself ‘fake’ deadlines and put them in your agenda. So you can inadvertently finish well in time.

Regardless of whether you’ve ever been branded with the ADHD label, you now have a significant head start. The internet has forced a whole generation of young people to use their brains differently. Memories have become hyperlinks to online information that is activated by keywords and URLs. In other words, the more fragments of information your brain can process, the more you can rely on your external, digital memory. So use it to your advantage!

(This article was published in NL and FR by Media Marketing)