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Attention Span summary

Gloria Mark

A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity

4.5 (894 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Attention Span by Gloria Mark explores the impacts of digital technologies on our ability to concentrate and retain information. The book offers tips and tools for managing distractions and improving productivity in today's fast-paced world.

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    Attention Span
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    Declining attention spans in the digital age

    Let’s be honest: we don’t need scientific data to know our attention is waning.

    You’ve probably noticed it in yourself – the constant urge to pick up your phone, the Reddit rabbit hole you can’t seem to pull yourself out of, the countless hours spent on TikTok.

    The digital world commands our attention like no other human invention before it. As a consequence, it has changed the way we live, work, and think. 

    Gloria Mark has studied people’s relationship with digital technology for almost as long as it has existed. Much of this research was conducted in “living laboratories” where researchers observed people in their everyday workplaces. Stopwatches, clickers, and notes were used to record their behavior. 

    Here’s what the research found. On average, people in the workplace spend about 3 minutes on a task before switching to another. But on the computer, they switch attention – from one website to another, for instance – every 2.5 minutes. Or at least they did in 2004. By 2021, they’d started switching their attention every 47 seconds. 

    Not all of these attention shifts are conscious and purposeful. Some happen out of boredom, some out of habit, and some happen when the internet does what it does best – pull us into a rabbit hole of link-wandering. 

    Another concerning finding? When people get interrupted during a work task, it takes them 25 minutes to get back to their original task. Sometimes these interruptions are external, such as an incoming phone call or a colleague eager to chat. But often, they also happen internally when a question, memory, or important task pops into their head.

    To be clear, attention-shifting, multitasking, and interruptions have existed long before the internet. Our brains are actually pretty good at dealing with these scenarios. But every time they do, they use up quite a bit of mental energy. And the more it happens, the quicker our resources are depleted. No wonder we feel more stressed, exhausted, and burned out than ever before!

    These basic findings about our attention spans should come as no surprise. But some of the results that scientists have uncovered actually run counter to the narratives we tell ourselves. That’s right – we’re about to bust some of the common myths about attention.

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    What is Attention Span about?

    Attention Span (2023) examines the connection between the digital age and our capacity for attention. As digital devices have become inextricable from our lives, our attention spans have shortened and our stress levels have risen. Drawing on scientific research, it debunks modern myths about attention and explains how we can reclaim it for better well-being. 

    Attention Span Review

    Attention Span by Gloria Mark (2022) is a thought-provoking exploration of our dwindling ability to focus in today's digital age. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • It provides eye-opening research and scientific insights into the effects of constant distractions and multitasking on our attention spans.
    • Through compelling examples and relatable stories, the book sheds light on the impact of distraction on productivity, creativity, and overall well-being.
    • With its practical strategies and actionable tips, this book empowers readers to regain control of their attention and improve their focus in a distracted world.

    Who should read Attention Span?

    • Anyone worried about their decreasing attention span
    • Those who have trouble disconnecting from their phone
    • People who feel stressed, exhausted, and burned out

    About the Author

    Gloria Mark is a psychologist and professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Initially trained as an artist, Mark later became an expert in the field of human-computer interaction. She has researched people’s daily interactions with technology for almost two decades, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, NPR, and the BBC.

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    Attention Span FAQs 

    What is the main message of Attention Span?

    The main message of Attention Span is the importance of managing our limited attention in the digital age.

    How long does it take to read Attention Span?

    The reading time for Attention Span varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Attention Span a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Attention Span is worth reading for its valuable insights into how technology affects our attention and practical tips for improving focus.

    Who is the author of Attention Span?

    Gloria Mark is the author of Attention Span.

    What to read after Attention Span?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Attention Span, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
    • Living in Flow by Sky Nelson-Isaacs
    • The Power of Unwavering Focus by Dandapani
    • Stop Reading the News by Rolf Dobelli
    • The Power of Discipline by Daniel Walter
    • The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
    • The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
    • Don't Believe Everything You Think by Joseph Nguyen
    • Retrain Your Brain by Seth J. Gillihan
    • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg