People need to learn more about how to stay focused because the ability sustain focus is one of the scarcest resources in the modern world. The average person has an attention span of only 8 seconds. If that seems low to you, consider the world we live in today. We are bombarded with demands for our immediate attention from the moment we wake up. Owners of smartphones receive up to 80 notifications every day. People working in the office deal with interruptions every 11 minutes.
Stay Focused Amid the Distractions
How do these constant distractions affect us? First of all, they impair focus. It takes 23 minutes to fully recover from a distraction. Some people don’t have 23 minutes before they get interrupted again. When we’re distracted, executive function suffers. We make twice as many errors when our attention is divided. In truth, lack of focus is costing us more than we realize. Time lost to digital distractions alone costs over $10,000 per person each year.
More than costing us our money, lack of focus is harming our health. When our brain has to constantly pivot between tasks, we suffer from excess fatigue and brain fog. Digital distractions interfere with our natural circadian rhythms. Today’s generation is the most sleep deprived in history. 3 out of 5 adults say they are more tired than they have ever been. Without enough sleep, we lack the energy and ability to fully engage with life.
The Limits of Caffeine and Energy Drinks
How can we focus better? Plenty of Americans already use certain foods and drinks to self-medicate. The most common “focus drug” is caffeine. In the US, the average adult consumes 85 liters of caffeinated drinks a year. Over a third of these drinks are energy drinks, widely known to exceed the healthy limits of both sugar and caffeine.
Even for those who consume a moderate amount of caffeine, the drug isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Caffeine boosts energy, not focus. It alters sleep schedules, reducing total sleep time by 1 hour. Even less sleep means more fatigue. Caffeine is also addictive, and withdrawal increases sleepiness, lowers alertness, and reduces reaction times. In the long term, a caffeine addiction may be linked to long-term health concerns like dementia and heart disease.
The good news is that caffeine isn’t the only solution to lack of focus. Scientists are pursuing several angles in pursuit of cognitive enhancement. Some professionals are pursuing biohacking, a DIY approach using self-experimentation to improve productivity and well-being. Behavior changes can have a major impact. For example, people who reduce blue light exposure in the evening are able to sleep better. Adding movement through the day has also been found to boost energy.
Scientists are studying nootropics, or substances that naturally increase cognitive function. By adding certain vitamins and nutrients to food, drink, or supplements, consumers can boost their focus without resorting to caffeine. Certain blends work with the body’s natural biological clock to support alertness and concentration throughout the day. These formulas don’t increase heart rate or blood pressure. Regular consumers don’t develop tolerances over time either, unlike caffeine drinkers.