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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Electronics-Induced Inattentiveness? 312

An anonymous reader writes: I am a graduate student in his twenties who used to be able to read dozens and dozens of lengthy books in his childhood. Over the years, I have noticed that my attention span and ability to concentrate has decreased noticeably, seemingly in synchronization with society's increased connectedness with the Internet and constant stimulation from computers and mobile devices alike. I have noticed that myself and others seem to have a difficult time really sitting down to read anything or focus on anything relatively boring for even more than ten seconds (the "TL;DR Generation," as I sometimes call it).

I see it when socializing with others or even during a professor's lecture. I have tried leaving my mobile phone at home and limiting myself to fewer browser tabs in an effort to regain concentration that I believe has been lost in recent years. Nonetheless, this is an issue that has begun to adversely affect my academic studies and may only get worse in time. What advice do fellow Slashdot users have with regard to reclaiming what has been lost? Should such behaviors simply be accepted as a sign of the times?
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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Electronics-Induced Inattentiveness?

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  • tl;dr (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:13PM (#48532203) Homepage
    I can't handle summaries more than 3-4 lines long, can someone sum it up for me?
    • In thinking about Soulskill's comparison of its childhood reading; I never really considered Dr. Suesse on the same intuitive reading level as Homer, and that's not Simpson.
      • I was reading the lord of the rings all three volumes by age 10. Annually between Christmas and New Years. Every year for 6 years

        I considered it a light holiday break reading.

        Some of us were given books as kids. That said I have never read war and peace. For me the writing style matters as much as the subject. If the writing style is boring to me I just can't get through it. Where as if I enjoy it I can read through a hundred pages an hour. Doing the typical mass market paper back of 300 pages in an aftern

    • Re: tl;dr (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:32PM (#48532417)

      Maybe Bennett can provide a summary and share his thoughts?

      • Maybe Bennett can provide a summary and share his thoughts?

        Sure, he can provide a summary, but "sharing his thoughts" would require we actually his submissions.

    • Re:tl;dr (Score:5, Funny)

      by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:57PM (#48532753)

      I'm too busy but we can crowdsource it.

      The first sentence says he's a young guy who used to read books.

    • Limiting myself to a few browser tabs? Really? Shut the damn laptop and work with paper and a pencil. :)
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:15PM (#48532215)
    Find something to actively do. Have no more broadcasted stimulation than the radio. By doing something you'll focus your attention.

    I tend to work on machinery or cars in my workshop. Still can be very technical when building an engine from a bare block with mains, but needs focus.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I suffer from exactly the same thing as the person asking. It's absolutely ridiculous how bad my attention span is. I know that part of the problem is at least in my case caused by anticonvulsant medication that I must take but largely it's also terrible habits that I've developed. It seems that I cannot wait for a page to load without checking some other page "in the mean time" and end up reading (uh, tl;dr reading) that and forget all about the first and then the same happens again... And when doing chore

    • by leftover ( 210560 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:48PM (#48532621) Homepage

      This, in spades! The passive intake of information has, over the last few decades, grown from an occasional relaxation activity to a full-time pattern. Watching televised entertainment, watching training videos and sitting in long useless meetings all suppress mental activity. Then come the interruptions from phone calls, deleting 99% of emails, reading text messages and twits. Even if you are seriously trying to get into flow, too frequent interruptions leads to a kind of fatigue where you tend to just sit and wait for the next one to hit.
      Since so much of "work", both white and blue collar, is now done on computers this pattern is extremely common. You can't get away from the computer and still do what you want to focus on. Simple solution: control your own micro-climate. Kill all the interrupting processes, put the office phone on DND, hang a sign that says "Working", plug in noise-cancelling headphone and play pleasant, non-distracting music or continuous nature sounds to drown office noise.
      Some people will become annoyed that you don't instantly drop everything and respond to them. Too bad for them.
         

    • by muhula ( 621678 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @03:40PM (#48533235)

      I stumbled upon a solution while taking an online course... watching the lecture at 2x speed helped me focus.

      It turns out that watching a lecture in real time allows me to get bored and I end up doing a context switch. Perhaps distraction isn't the problem, but in this age, we've learned to process information more quickly.

      • I've been doing some too. For me I find that with some speakers you can get away with 120% almost without noticing, but much above 140% we're talking racing commentators/auctioneers and once you hit 170% it's into Alvin and the goddam chipmunks territory.

      • by rnturn ( 11092 )

        ``I stumbled upon a solution while taking an online course... watching the lecture at 2x speed helped me focus.''

        I devised a solution to a similar problem some years ago. We were required to listen to a series of audio training sessions. If the topics weren't boring enough already, to top it off, they were done by a couple of people from the Texas office who were unable to talk in anything but a slow (a painfully slow) drawl. I found that playing the sessions back at about 120% or so of normal speed made

    • If you haven't read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you should.

      There's a very good passage where he says more or less the same as you.

  • Focus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:16PM (#48532223)

    Quit social media, quit 4chan, quit masturbating (BIRM) quit reddit, quit facebook, and go back to reading books again.
    Edit your hosts file or put in firewalls if you have to. Get an old flipphone that makes texting difficult and browsing near impossible. Disable your data plan.
    Use a hand-me-down laptop/desktop pc that is so horribly slow it's painful to browse modern websites on.

    You have the power of time management. Accepting a low attention span as a sign of the times is giving up, like an addict.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      quit masturbating? That's a time honored tradition - not an electronic new age fad. Plenty of productive focused people still find time to masturbate. Not sure why this is on your list.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's not so much the masturbating, but the graphic pornography. Essentially the dopamine response cycle from watching porn (and constantly seeking new porn) causes brain changes similar to taking hard core drugs. Or at least, that's the claim.

    • ... and discipline - something many youngsters (like, apparently, OP) seem to be lacking. Perhaps they did, or would do, poorly in the Stanford marshmallow experiment [wikipedia.org]. Mastering patience and deferred gratification can be beneficial - grasshoppers.

      • Re:Focus (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WillKemp ( 1338605 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @06:30PM (#48534833) Homepage

        ... and discipline - something many youngsters (like, apparently, OP) seem to be lacking.

        It's not just youngsters. I'm 56 and I just finished a science degree (with fairly high grades) - and I can't force myself to read boring books. The secret to succesful uni studies is skimming - use the minimum amount of effort to extract only what you need from a document, whether it's a book or a scientific paper. At the end of the day, when you walk out of the final exam for a subject, any knowledge you may have accumulated evaporates anyway - leaving a nice clean brain for next semester!

        Save your mental energy for interesting stuff.

    • by tomkost ( 944194 )
      what is BIRM?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:19PM (#48532263)

    How?

    Tried and true: Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, walks in nature, do what you love to do (and which gives you energy).
    Even just a mindfulness class or book might help you in the right direction.

    Don't become a leaf in the wind. Take charge.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blagger99 ( 473150 )

      This.

      Meditation is the art of concentration.

      Christmas Humphrey's "Concentration and Meditation" is excellent: http://www.amazon.com/Concentr... [amazon.com]

      • Tai Chi. Seriously, if you want to increase your mindfulness and ability to concentrate and learn new material, learn to do taichi. It takes a while, but you start to get benefits right away. Unlike yoga, you get to move around and if bandits come while you're meditating, you'll be able to kick their asses and send them on their way.

        • Tai-go-lates?

          Sounds like a drink.

          Tai chi - yoga - pilates

        • Tai Chi. ... Unlike yoga, you get to move around and if bandits come while you're meditating, you'll be able to kick their asses and send them on their way.

          Slow-motion bandits anyway.

    • Don't become a leaf in the wind. Take charge.

      Better than being a "leaf on the wind" -- that didn't work out so well for Wash [wikia.com]

    • Yeah, it could even be just a matter of not enough physical exercise.

      Try some jogging or something, and see if that makes a difference.
  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:26PM (#48532349)

    Forget about how it affects your academic studies -- the academic world has always been a far stretch from reality, so the older most people get, the less it makes sense to study and learn in heavily structured environments.

    Now, regarding the distraction, here's what I do.

    Every week, I measure my happiness. There are countless psych-industry surveys, and a few very official ones, but any technique that makes sense for you will work just as well. It can be the number of times you smiled, the ease with which you slept, your willingness to go to work on monday, the number of times you went out with friends, the amount of chocolate you ate, or didn't eat, whatever. Your measure of happiness is all that matters, and any will do, provided that it's the same technique for six months at a time.

    So every week, measure your happiness. Again, not your joy (emotion), your happiness (state of mind).

    Buy an old "dumb" phone for $10. Basic address book, telephone, crappy texting. The kind of phone that was AMAZING in 1998. The kind of phone that only the very wealthy had in 1996. The kind of phone that only kings had in 1995. The kind of phone that only freakin' astronauts had in 1994.

    Use it for two weeks instead of your modern smart phone.

    See what happens to your happiness measurements. Maybe they'll go up. Maybe they'll go down.

    The point is simply this. Every week, make an arbitrary change from what you're doing today, to something that is or was perfectly amazing to someone else. See if you become a happier person. Forget about measuring by price, or appearance, or opinion, or status. Just look at your own face in the mirror, or feel your own face with your hands, and see what makes you happier.

    Do so objectively, and within a year you'll transform so many different parts of your life that you won't even recognize it anymore -- because it'll be a perfect extension of you.

    I bought a piece of furniture that most people haven's seen seen the 16th century. It doesn't match any other piece of furniture in the house. But it's super-comfortable, and my favourite place in the house. Sitting in it is an instant-soothe.

    1) Experiment. 2) Measure. 3) Adjust. 4) Measure. 5) Iterate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lkcl ( 517947 )

      " The kind of phone that only freakin' astronauts had in 1994." .... and only grandmothers and the *really* discerning geeks who have seen exactly the effects that the OP describes, and have decided to do something about it.

      my advice on an old phone: get a nokia 6310i. that one is still amazing, and they sell out within an hour at market stalls. on a new phone: get a cheap PAYG nokia. they're still made, they now have a 30-day (30 DAY!!) standby, they still run the same OS as the 6310i (just upgraded to

    • See what happens to your happiness measurements. Maybe they'll go up. Maybe they'll go down.

      Taking a step back, I see there being a potential philosophic question raised by this: Is your self-measurement of happiness really the metric that you want to optimize?

      There are some potential problems that go beyond "whether the specific metric you're using is accurate." One of the questions I would ask is, even if your assessment is accurate, is your personal happiness the most important thing? I know a lot of people who would say yes, but I don't think the answer is really so obvious. For example, t

      • None of that is silly. Here's the thing. This is as much a process as it is a technique.

        There's a big part that I didn't explain. It's not about your emotional state. It's about your state of mind. Happiness isn't joy, it's contentment. You can be happy with a sacrifice. You can be happy with pain. You can be happy with a struggle.

        The big effort, and this is the skill to be learned, is to ensure that you're assessing your own happiness, and not someone else's.

        There's a lot of marketing in this world

    • I bought a piece of furniture that most people haven's seen seen the 16th century. It doesn't match any other piece of furniture in the house. But it's super-comfortable, and my favourite place in the house. Sitting in it is an instant-soothe.

      What piece of furniture? It sounds great.

  • by Marginal Coward ( 3557951 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:28PM (#48532359)

    I've only recently gotten a smartphone, after being a holdout for a long time. Before that, one of my beefs with smartphone users was that they were always reaching for their phones whenever they might otherwise have been bored. It seemed to me that they had lost something valuable: time to contemplate.

    However, now that I have a smartphone, I no longer think about that.

    • If I had mod points, I'd waste one on a +1, funny for you.
    • by pla ( 258480 )
      Jokes aside, I think what you describe has more to do with personality than the device.

      I too held out until recently on getting a smartphone, and only made the leap because my literally 8YO flip phone wouldn't hold a charge for a full day and they stopped making new batteries for it in 2010.

      And despite having a massively powerful, high resolution, always-online device in my pocket for sixteen hours a day, I find that I only do one thing with it that I didn't previously - Check my email (though I don't d
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        In my own case, now that I've given in and become one of the Borg, I've decided to embrace it wholeheartedly. I now do things I used to look down on others for doing - and I do them knowingly and with gusto. For example, while waiting for a table at a restaurant, why bother talking to the people you came with? And when watching a sport on TV, why not play a phone game during the commercials? Heck, I enjoy that so much that I sometimes continue when the game comes back on. And here's one that _really_ u

      • I too held out until recently on getting a smartphone, and only made the leap because my literally 8YO flip phone wouldn't hold a charge for a full day and they stopped making new batteries for it in 2010.

        I still carry a Qualcomm QCP-1900 I bought in 1998 - only makes phone calls - for travel and emergencies, but generally never turn it on. Battery seems to still work okay. My provider nTelos recently force upgrade my service plan to their newest lowest plan that includes 500 minutes and unlimited texting - my phone can't text.

  • Willpower (Score:4, Informative)

    by Matheus ( 586080 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:29PM (#48532373) Homepage

    As with anything worthwhile in life this requires willpower. I'm surprised it took you all the way to grad school to have trouble plowing through boring text books. The truth of the matter is no matter how far we've advanced we aren't really any better at shoving knowledge into your brain. The real change that has happened in the Google universe is that the philosophy of "Why memorize it when I can Google it?" has taken over. Unless you have some form of ADHD (honestly severely over-diagnosed but does exist) then the ability to sit down and read something long that is not interesting falls to pure willpower. I didn't want to do homework either but if I didn't my grades suffered. "Consequences" All of these distractions that are more "interesting" to you can wait. Don't blame technology for giving you more distractions to choose from.

  • by Astrophysician ( 1566619 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:31PM (#48532397) Homepage
    I'm also a graduate student who has noticed a reduction in my (and my peers') ability to concentrate. It's a daily struggle to fight back against sources of distraction, but I've made some small changes that have helped me and might help you (and other Slashdotters) as well:
    - I try to print really important papers and read them on paper. It is wasteful (recycle nonessential papers if desired), but pulp has no tabs;
    - If I read analog media at my desk, I turn off my monitors to avoid notifications;
    - I turn my phone on silent and flip it over on the desk for the same notification avoidance--works well with OS' that allow repeated callers to ring through while other notifications you designate keep the phone silent;
    - I try to be a more "engaged" reader, taking notes on the paper (see my first point) to force my own engagement with the material. My mind wanders if I'm bored, which is entirely possible with academic material, so to stave off the boredom I'll do more to insert myself into the reading process.

    Baby steps to change habits over time.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ditch the electronics, and the temptations.

    Seriously. I am a programmer working on games for smartphones, but... I don't own a smartphone, I make do with a five-year-old flip-phone that does nothing other than make phone calls.

    I don't have a facebook account, or a twitter account.

    I've unsubscribed from most of the mailing lists I used to be on, and dropped most of the forums I used to frequent.

    And you know what? I don't miss any of it. I have time to read books. I have time to play long video games.

  • As a tech I tend to change jobs and work with people I've worked with before, we tend to pull each other along to better places. I have had a reputation for an incredible ability to focus on the task at hand and tune out the world around me. Part of being an aspie geek.

    My old coworkers thought it was hilarious to "pull me out of the zone" intentionally.

    The end result is I can still focus rather well, but I'm now more attentive to what's around me. I'm more easily distracted than I used to be - but I've n

  • If your attention span is suffering that dramatically, there might be something medical going on.

  • Practice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I can only answer this with the example of my own life. I was in roughly the same situation, and decided that like most things, it was the result of habit.

    My first step was to get a notebook and mark down what I was doing throughout the day. If I was reading an article while checking email, responding to facebook messages, and bidding on ebay, I wrote that down as unproductive time instead of "reading". I generally wrote down any activity I did for more than 10-15 minutes, and it turned out that most of

  • by Chirs ( 87576 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:38PM (#48532493)

    If you don't actually concentrate on doing things for extended periods of time, you're going to lose your ability to do it.

    So when you have some spare time instead of flipping through slashdot or reddit why not try actually doing something for an extended period of time? Read a book, do a hobby, go for a walk, take a bike ride for fun, go to a coffee shop and casually read a big newspaper, do the crossword puzzle. I read a lot of novels and do some woodworking on the side. A quiet evening in the shop with hand tools and the radio in the background is a great way to decompress.

  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:39PM (#48532497)

    You may only need to cool brain down from fast paced stressful modern connected life. Get yourself a bottle of complex wine, like a Chianti, have a glass or two over twenty five minute time span. Then read. Put the cork in bottle and store in dark cool place (not fridge) for the next day's reading.

    There may be other ways to relax,

  • Sorry but your reasoning is bullshit. Before the internet people blamed cable tv, before cable it was music or tv or radio, the reality is that you're choosing not to read.
  • Same observation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khellendros1984 ( 792761 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:43PM (#48532535) Journal
    I noticed a similar tendency in my own behavior. There are two things that I've done about it. First, around an hour before bedtime, all the electronics go off. Pull out a book of whatever you like to read for recreation. Force yourself to start reading, but don't force yourself to keep reading, because then it will feel like a chore. The deal is that you can read as long as you'd like, but when you put the book down, the light needs to go off too. Second, almost everyone has some kind of creative endeavor that they can pursue on their computer. In my case, there are a small number of programming projects that I've started. Writing software requires long periods of concentration, and if you're working on something interesting, then you'll have more incentive to stick to the project.

    If you're unhappy with your level of concentration, then find something you enjoy concentrating on. Then when you're obligated to do something tedious, you at least have the attention span to properly apply yourself to the task.
  • Seriously. Just 10 minutes a day will help you improve your ability to focus [nih.gov] over longer periods. If you don't know how it works, I recommend getting some professional instruction before you start.

  • Buy yourself a kindle... no not a tablet, that gives you too much access to the internet. Then that hour you normally spend sitting on your laptop while watching tv... spend it reading. We live in the golden age of literature... you have more books at your fingertips that anyone in history.
  • 1. Meditate every day, even if only for five minutes.
    2. Mindfully approach everything you do.
    3. Profit.

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:47PM (#48532609)
    Here is a revolutionary new way to sit in a lecture...

    Sit in your seat, pull out a pen, pull out a pad of paper ("spiral notebook", "Legal Pad", whatever).

    If the professor/lecturer says something important... write it down. If the professor is boring, doodle idly while you listen.


    Leave the laptop, ipad, phone at home.
  • "Should such behaviors simply be accepted as a sign of the times?"

    No.

    Is being 50 pounds overweight acceptible because of all of the fast food restaurants?! It's a problem. If you want to get your attention span back, buy a 7 dollar paperback book and actually read it. Not a comic book. A book without pictures. Your attention span will return. And throw out your smartphone, delete your social network accounts, and learn a new skill. Problem = solved. If you're attention span is desolving, it's
  • by Bob_Who ( 926234 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:52PM (#48532669) Homepage Journal

    Welcome to growing older. Notice how there aren't as many Olympians in their 30's? The defending World Champion in Chess isn't even a quarter century old. I realize that your question was regarding new media and attention spans, but life is phenomenological in nature and you are describing an experience shared among aging humans for eons. Next stop: middle age. But don't worry, you figure out a work around to your diminishing capacity.

    • There's some secular (long-term) loss of capacity, to be sure, but I think it's dwarfed by the effects of attention depletion.

      My memories of older relatives include some who would zone out in front of the TV, but many others who would spend their days reading books, doing crosswords or jigsaw puzzles, or doing crafts (woodworking, knitting/sewing, etc.). You can't always do much about dementia, but growing old generally does not mean the end of attentiveness.

      And remember, if you do it right, you get better

  • I have the same problem as the submitter. I have been trying a two-pronged approach:
    * I've taken up slow reading, where one day a week I take a book to a local coffee shop to sit and read with no electronics. This is really hard but good to do. * Second, I got a keyboard case for my ipad (clamcase brand). The case is substantial enough that it feels (and looks) like a full laptop. It gives me the "limited" experience that you mention, where things like web browser and email are accessible but a little more

  • Remove Notifications (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tepar ( 87925 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @02:56PM (#48532729) Homepage

    The subject says it all, but let me give you specifics. My tools may not be the same as yours, but the same principles apply.

    1. Mobile Device

    I have a recent Android device. I have turned off all audible notifications in all applications except for phone calls and SMS messages. That brings the notifications down to the '90s dumb phone level. With notifications off, I choose when I'm going to pull my phone out and check things, and my device only interrupts me for important communications (text messages and phone calls).

    Delete the Facebook and Twitter apps. You can use Facebook from the browser, and it's more secure that way anyway. Replace Twitter with Twidere, which by default must be launched and the feed updated manually, though it will notify you of direct messages and mentions. Sign out of Google Hangouts. This ensures it only bothers you for text messages, and when you're off your computer, you're signed out of instant messaging and people know they either have to call you or text you if they want you.

    2. Computer

    I use a KDE-based Linux desktop (currently Manjaro), so you may have to adapt this. KDE has this thing called Activities, which let you group apps by function. Currently, I have only two: Desktop and Social. These are two separate screens that I have to Meta-Tab to switch back and forth to see. I know there are virtual desktop utilities for Windows, and I think the Mac lets you put apps on various screens now, but you're probably guessing where I'm going with this. On the Social activity, I have my email client (KMail) and my Twitter client (Choqok). My email client is set not to show a notification or play a sound when a new message comes in: that would be a distraction. Same with the twitter client (you have to set the system tray icon to Hidden to accomplish this).

    Using an email client is important: if you use a browser tab, guess what? You'll see that little number in parentheses telling you how many emails have come in, and you'll then be tempted to check it. Don't use your browser. Use a client.

    And while I'm on the subject of browsers, you should have two plugins installed: an ad blocker and a flash blocker. For those sites (like Slashdot) that you want to support, let the ad blocker show ads, but keep the flash blocker active so the ads don't become intrusive. It's easier then to read articles and such without the ads getting in the way. For most sites, block it all. And for heaven's sake, don't keep a Facebook tab open. Visit the site when you want to visit it, and then close the tab.

    With this system, when I'm supposed to be focusing on work, I'm on my Desktop activity. I never receive a notification for email or any social network. If I have to use a browser in the course of my work, which is a frequent happenstance, ads and flash are blocked by default, and I don't mix it with my email.

    Does this mean I miss stuff? Never. Like you, I realized I have an attention span problem that I didn't have in the past. That attention span problem induces me to check things on a regular basis. What I've removed is the interruptions: I'm probably going to check all those things anyway. That increases the amount of time I'm able to focus, and if I feel the need to check something, my email and twitter feed are a Meta-Tab click away.

    What I have found is that I've been able to find that focus and "lose myself" in my tasks again. I am no longer interrupted all the time by things that have a lower priority than what I'm currently doing, and I'm much happier with what I'm able to accomplish as a result.

    I hope this helps!

  • No reason to blame your gizmos or the current culture of information and sharing. The thing to do is to work out your ability to focus on one thing at a time for longer periods of time. The way I work on this is via meditation. There are many techniques of meditating to choose from. They all do the same sort of thing: increase your focus and patience and ability to stay right were you are without seeking the relief of something more interesting. This is what is required to overcome the temptation of constan
  • by jehan60188 ( 2535020 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @03:09PM (#48532879)

    getting distracted by something else means you don't care enough about the subject to pay attention. if it wasn't a phone, you'd find another distraction because you don't care about whatever you're studying
    you're ruining it for serious grad students by driving up tuition, and watering down the value of whatever degree you hope to achieve.

    this is grad school, not the third grade- nobody's going to hold your hand through it, and nobody cares if you succeed or not.

  • Breath and focus on your breath, slow your breath to 6-10 breaths a minute. Don't get frustrated that your mind is wandering when you notice this accept it and bring your focus back to your breath. The trick to meditation is bringing your focus back. Do this for 5 minutes.

  • Unchain Your Brain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chthon ( 580889 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @03:18PM (#48532983) Homepage Journal

    This week I found a book in the library, "Ontketen je Brein" (Unchain Your Brain), the result of scientific research by Dutch psychologist Theo Compernolle.

    In this book, he show how the brain really works and what adversely affects it.

    The main thing he he does not stop repeating is: take a break, go off-line.

    The main brain chains are:

    • Being always on-line
    • Multitasking and context switching
    • A continuing low level of stress
    • Lack of breaks and sleep
    • Open offices

    Very interesting stuff to read.

  • Your brain learns to do what you teach it. As indicated above, if you practice concentration, your concentration will get better.

    I fell out of reading books for many years, now I'm back on the bandwagon. I've been cranking on books for about six months now. Once I got back into the rhythm, which took about a week, I was able to settle down and really read again.

    Concentration is a choice, just like multitasking. All the cool kids showed off by doing many things at once, and now we think that's normal,
  • a) Learn in the library. Leave your laptop/smartphone/tablet at home whenever possible.

    b) When you notice that you became distracted on the computer, make a note about how long you stayed focused.

    c) Make enough breaks (>1/hour) when learning.

    d) Sleep enough (corollary: computer should not be taken into your bed)

    d) Go to the doctor and let yourself check for possible root causes. It could very well be that it's not the electronics which reduced you attention span, but that you have some other problem (mil

  • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @03:28PM (#48533089) Homepage Journal
    I was invited to an event the other day where there were a lot of very wealthy people; Bank presidents and their investors. Open bar, free food, free valet parking and coat check. While in there mostly being a wallflower (because I am not good at this sort of event), I happened to notice that nobody was sitting there staring at a screen. In fact, I heard no alerts, no ringtones, and saw no trusty smartphones strapped sturdily to the hip. Nobody pulled a cell phone out to check the time, or the weather or their messages. During the entire three hour event I saw exactly one of these people look briefly at a cellphone. It was a smartphone, but a very early model with a small screen, and looked well used. She glanced at the time and put it away.
    Not drawing conclusions, just something to ponder.
  • I struggle with exactly the same thing. OTOH, the real superstar developers I've seen, can instantly achieve cast-iron concentration and focus. So it matters.

    I figure that it ultimately boils down to practising impulse control, and trying to avoid distractions. Surfing the web is like a string of thirty-second activity-reward cycles: open a Web page, read it, *boom* dopamine hit.

    I have two strategies I use: firstly, I try and maintain my awareness of 'flow' at work, and the little things that break it. Sec

  • I was going to comment on this earlier. Well, actually, I was going to read some of the comments, but I read about 8 emails from two gmail tabs, checked my work account in another window (alpine), checked facebook, back to slashdot but reloaded the main page again to check for new articles... what were we talking about again?

  • Simply dedicate time each day to memorizing anything. For example memorize Hamlet. You may not give a hoot about Hamlet but it gets you accustomed to focusing on a narrow subject for fairly long periods of time. When done with Hamlet pick a novel and try to memorize and maintain all of the novel. Education is focused on exactly that type of thing. It applies even to mathematics. I knew a school girl who committed the entire log tables to memory from one to one thousand in order to be able to c
  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @03:35PM (#48533179) Homepage

    You have an anxiety disorder. That's really the only way to classify those symptoms. The good news is that there's a lot you can do to treat yourself. First, you have to make a conscious decision to tell yourself how unimportant these things are that you feel like you can't be without.

    - Cut back on caffeine/alcohol for a bit and prioritize sleep.
    - Take a connection-free weekend - set an updated voicemail greeting and turn the phone and computer off. Allow yourself to change tasks as much as you like, as long as you stay off the phone/computer.
    - When you feel withdrawal symptoms, go get some kind of exercise. This will take the place of the dopamine hit you get from checking up on things on your phone.
    - Meditation is not for everyone (or me). But learning how to accept time without distractions and stimulation is important in whatever way is best for you.

    The need for constant stimulation is really just a need for a distraction from the underlying issue. Boredom is being faced with your own thoughts, fears, and worries. Are long books boring or are they just not a distraction?

    Read up on drug-addiction based anxiety, since there are a lot of commonalities.

  • You mention electronics induced inattentiveness... Could the 18th century education model be to blame?

    If you want to "detox" from the 21st century I suppose it's a noble goal just like prophets, wisemen and walk-abouts. But if you truly think it's not a fault in yourself then I give the following thoughts.

    Find ways to engage with the material and the lecture. If the instructor looks bored, then help them. Especially at the graduate level if you are not engaged the professor should have put a big ole bullsey

  • A study, that I can't find on google, showed that even after like 15 minutes of web browsing people begin to exhibit ADD type of symptoms. The constant skimming, searching for links or clickable objects messes our brains up. Reading one book is hard for a lot of people nowadays because of the internet. Basically you need to cut off the internet for a while force yourself to take things slower, reading lengthy magazine articles is a place to start to get you back into the groove.
  • When you decide it's time to focus on a certain thing you may have to force yourself not to physically or mentally abandon the task at hand. It will suck, but you'll be happier when it's done and you feel like you accomplished something. Then the rest of the day or the weekend or whatever you won't obsess about the thing you didn't do and beat yourself up about it. Your mind will be more at ease and you'll be better able to enjoy life in the moment when the appropriate thing to do it enjoy the moment. Don't

  • If you were in your 50's or 60's, I'd say you were suffering from Alzheimers or just having a senior moment. However, since you are in your 20's, maybe get a CT scan? That's just my opinion, as I have a complete lack of medical knowledge. Also, I'm just joking.
  • Like others have said, it all comes down to your own self discipline. Since you've posted the question, you're obviously aware you could be doing this better.

    When you're going to a lecture, you're going there with a single purpose: to attend the lecture. Listen, take notes, ask questions. Learn. Think. Understand. All you need here is a pad of paper and a pen. Write notes. Think about what's being delivered. Technology has no place here, and utterly detracts from the experience. Writing is great: it

  • for me the the annoyance comes more from me myself trying to be very short and concise (and precise) with my words, and hating the content-less blabla that most people produce. That said, I enjoy reading literature quite a lot and do so daily during commuting.

  • I had a similar problem to yours when i was a student. I largely mitigate against it with a few things. I found the smartest guy in the class and stuck with him, working with hard working people made me work harder - especially if they're relying on me to complete something.

    When studying, I also just accepted the fact that i was going to waste a lot of time with my gadgets and made sure to allocate enough time overall to accommodate for it ( I know this is a luxury for some). As long as i had finished t

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