Tip #914: Stop Comparing Me to a Goldfish!

“Capture my interest and you won’t need to worry about my attention span.” Kushandwizdom

I’m sorry, but I’m sick and tired of being told that a goldfish with an attention span of 9 seconds has a longer attention span than I do. It might be true if I were placed in a fishbowl with nothing to look at. But I don’t exist in a fishbowl and neither do you. And I’m suspicious about how anyone could possibly determine the attention span of a goldfish anyway.

The common wisdom for virtual training is that the participants need to be engaged in some activity every 5 minutes. This is because there is so much that can distract the participants’ focus and we want to avoid that. It doesn’t mean that our attention span is limited to 5 minutes. If the speaker is so engaging that we are hanging on every word, that 5-minute limit goes out the window.

As a general rule, we say that lectures should be no longer than 10 minutes. That 10-minute time period is based on the typical amount of time of television viewing time between commercials. The thinking is that we tv-watchers have been programmed to take a break every 10-minutes when the ads appear.

This does not mean that our attention span is limited to 10 minutes. We happily watch TED talks that are 20 minutes and documentaries that are an hour or more. The medium and the content impose time limits, not our ability to pay attention.

Studies have shown that adults can actually focus for 3-5 hours at a time. Anyone who has binge-watched a show, played video games, or been in the flow can easily confirm this. When we’re really interested in something, whether it be an activity we love to do or watch others doing, we’re unaware of time passing and may even miss mealtimes.

I know if I’m involved with designing a training program, it’s not out of the question for me to spend 6 hours without a break. This is because I get fully immersed in what I’m doing.

Our attention span is directly related to our degree of interest and investment. When we care about what’s going on, we can focus for hours at a time. When we don’t really care, then our attention span is shorter because we can be easily distracted.

Question: Think of the last time you really lost yourself in an activity. How long did that last?

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


#attentionspan #intheflowstate  #goldfishmyth

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