Not long ago, Microsoft surveyed 2,000 Canadians’ brain activity to gather data on our ability to focus in the digital age.

The result showed our attention span has shrunk from 12 seconds to 8, making it shorter than a goldfish’s (nine seconds average).

Couple a shrinking attention span with unending distractions, it’s a wonder writers ever get words on the page.  The holidays are upon us, providing even more distraction and writing time constraints. So what can writers do to find their focus?

Colleen M. Story, author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, suggests focus is a skill and, like all skills, it requires lots of practice to improve. She suggests writers start by making it easier for our writer brains to concentrate.

~Turn off smartphones, iPads, etc. and disconnect from internet and email

~Find a place to isolate yourself and post a do not disturb sign

~Use noise-cancelling headphones

~Jot down whatever errant thought that pops into your head and follow through later

~Keep a glass of water handy

She advocates two other ways to practice building our brain’s focus ability.

  1. Meditate

Meditation is an easy way to practice focus and ditch the bad habit of giving in to distractions. Studies backed by brain-imaging studies show it works.

  1. Delay impulses

Resist making a response to that incoming text or email for five minutes. If you’re chilly, wait five minutes before you reach for a sweater. If you want a snack, delay for five minutes. The more you practice delayed gratification the stronger your ability to focus quickly and for longer periods.