Over the holidays, I noticed something odd at the movies: I couldn't focus on what was happening on the big screen. My mind kept wondering what was happening on the small screen in my pocket. What texts, emails, and Facebook notifications was I missing while my iPhone was on airplane mode?
Afterwards, I checked back into the Wi-Fi world, only to find that I hadn't missed a thing. What I had missed was the chance to completely immerse myself in the world of Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them. I couldn't help but wonder, is my attention span really so poor that I can't enjoy a two-hour movie?
"Nowadays, it can feel odd to focus on a single thing," says Ben Parr, author of Captivology: The Science Of Capturing People's Attention. We're so used to multitasking during the day — whether we're hopping from one app to another or simultaneously using our laptops and phones — that our ability to stay tuned into one task has suffered. Even the smallest distraction, like an incoming calendar reminder or Twitter notification, has the power to derail us from what we were doing.
The detriments of a poor attention span are clear and extend far beyond productivity at work, Parr says. If we're constantly focusing on something else, it's harder to be present and enjoy spending time with friends or meeting someone new. This is an ideology that dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble have thrived on: Why settle down with one person when you can constantly swipe to find someone new? If we're always looking for the next best thing, it's harder to recognize when we actually have something that's pretty great.
So, how do you tackle the problem when the problem is your mind? Ahead, six things you can do to get your attention span back on track in 2017.