Dunvegan Thought Spot


In the research The Dunvegan Group conducts to support our CCR™ (Customer Care & Retention™) programs, we discover articles, blog posts and videos which, although not directly related to our work, are thought provoking or concern matters you may want to think about.  ‘Thought Spot’ covers a broad range of subjects.

The posts in ‘Thought Spot’ are selected by Olev Wain, Ph.D., VP of Research at The Dunvegan Group. 

We welcome your feedback!


Recovering Your Attention Span

As an avid reader in my youth I was able to attend to a book for several hours. Now I have noticed that with longer reads, more than 4000 words, my attention sometimes begins to wander.

Most people I know do more and more of their reading online, on their phone or tablet; many now do so exclusively while others still subscribe to paper copies of magazines and books. I am in the latter group.  

There have been numerous articles written about the general decrease in people’s attention spans with some authors pointing out that most people have the attention span of a gold fish; so, a shrinking attention span is not unique to me.

The distractions of the 0n-line world we live in have been blamed for this.

In a Globe & Mail article on February 9 2018, Michael Harris (Author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in an Age of Constant Connection) wrote:

Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn't. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. No stroke or disease clouded my way. Yet – if I'm being honest – the failure was also not a surprise.

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix.

Out for dinner with another writer, I said, "I think I've forgotten how to read.”

"Yes!" he replied, pointing his knife. "Everybody has."

"No, really," I said. "I mean I actually can't do it any more."

He nodded: "Nobody can read like they used to. But nobody wants to talk about it."

He continues by observing:

When we become cynical readers – when we read in the disjointed, goal-oriented way that online life encourages – we stop exercising our attention.

It’s nice to know that one is not alone in experiencing this problem!

I suppose, as with most skills or abilities, physical or otherwise, you ‘lose it if you don’t use it’ (how’s that for an original thought!).

There are several things I now do to ‘re-learn how to read’ lengthier material and maintain a longer attention span:

  • I first ask myself why I am reading the material (a book/story/essay/point-of-view), and what I expect to learn from it. This provides me with a focal point for coalescing the content/learning.

  • Then, I get rid of all distractions. If not already in print form, I print the material so that I have no access to clickable links, advertisements or other distracting material. This also allows me to make notes alongside the text (how cool is that?).

  • I read the material in a venue other than my office [usually another room where there is no computer (e.g., email, twitter or IM) or other distractions].

  • To lose track of time, I divide the number of words in the material I am reading by 250 (which is about average reading speed per minute for most people) and set a timer for that number of minutes. I usually finish before it rings.

This discipline helps with sustaining my concentration when reading material that is longer than about 4000 words. I am getting better at it.

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of duncan1890 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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