We humans have an attention span of 8 seconds, the target-time bull riders strive to reach in bull riding – incredibly short! How do we get anything accomplished?

This fact is important to remember for anyone who wants to improve mental performance and mechanical results at work and at home.

Here are some tips for improving focus and lengthening attention span, and thus maximizing mechanical results.

Designate a specific workspace

Don’t physically bounce back and forth through the day. Find a routine place to do your work. In his book On Writing, Stephen King suggests having one place; a place where you can shut the door and get the work done. Although he was speaking in terms of writing, it’s applicable to any kind of sit-down work. Here’s more from King: “The space can be humble…and it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. The door closes the rest of the world out; it also serves to close you in and keep you focused on the job at hand.”

Eliminate Distraction

Log off social media, email, texting, instant messenger, etc. when working. Constant notifications instantly drive attention elsewhere. Why do we crave notifications? They are sometimes followed by stimulating rewards (gaining new followers or another sale, the satisfaction of providing an instant response, etc.) Also, we tend to harbor a fear that we will miss something important. That’s nearly always untrue. Nicholas Carr, in his book The Shallows, describes it this way: “we want to be interrupted, because each interruption brings us a valuable piece of information. To turn off these alerts is to risk feeling out of touch, or even socially isolated.”

Review incoming emails and messages at set times during the day, or perhaps at two-hour intervals, versus consistently watching for them to appear. If someone needs you NOW, they can call you on your phone.

Take mental breaks

  • Take 5 minute breaks every half hour.
  • When not working, calm down with meditation, yoga, reading, walking, puzzles, etc.
  • Reading is the best antidote to quickly lengthening your attention span. In just a few sequential days of reading a half hour each day, the attention span increases dramatically! (Note: This is not about reading online blogs, newspapers or magazines or even a book-reader (Kindle, etc.). Read a book. (Not a book-reader? Maybe start with Carr’s book…).

You are what you eat

  • You know this already, but don’t forget: Hydrate. The body is 98% water.
  • You know this too: Stick to healthier food options such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, protein packed foods. Those sugary snacks look great in the vending machine, but you must resist.
  • Eat a good protein-centric breakfast, the most important meal of the day.
  • Caffeine is OK if not over-indulged. Limit yourself. It’s OK to crave…
  • Remember that a little bit of craving is OK and good for the soul. Watch your blood sugar but being modestly hungry is usually a good thing.


  • Maintain a task list! Take it with you everywhere. Take action on those tasks with the highest importance, not necessarily the most urgent….
  • Take Notes. Continuously revisiting information stimulates the brain and creates long term memories.

-sam carpenter


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