Today was the last day that my workplace was graced with the presence of our part time intern. She was a fun, lively and far-above-competent intern and I think we’ll probably miss having her spritely vibe around the office.
One of her fun attributes was her short attention span. She is not alone in her affliction. In fact, most people - perhaps even you - have short attention spans.
Why do you think I would divide my blog up into such short paragraphs?
Why do you think I insert links and pictures into my page?
Why do you think I use subheadings?
Doing all of these things helps to hold the reader’s attention. This precautionary attitude is a must.
What causes the short attention span? Some think technology has spoiled us. With the internet, mobile phones, and social networking sites, we have become accustomed to getting everything we want with such speed that many of us have lost all patience for things that take a long time, or for things that we perceive will take a long time.
I think this perception that something will take a long time to accomplish is the main reason we get upset and try to “skim over” something, put it off, or even skip it all together.
Friendly complaints about interns
Our most recent intern was a genuine athlete when it came to “skimming over” emails. She would leap Olympic-caliber bounds over key information in emails that I sent her, and then she'd wonder why my emails seemed unclear. It didn’t bother me too much because it gave me a reason to make fun of her.
All of our interns have had a difficulty reading more than two paragraphs in an email. There is always a reason I send an email with long instructions – it’s because each instruction is important. If I would’ve wanted you to only read parts of the email, I would’ve just written those particular parts!
Even in the corner office
Sadly, this skimming custom reaches far beyond the realms of interns. It is a problem in the daily lives of executive-level business communication as well.
THEM: “Where is the rest of the information?”
ME: “Scroll down.”
THEM: (Scrolling down) “Oh, there it is. Why didn’t you divide it up into smaller paragraphs so it would hold my attention?”
This interplay is an exaggeration. But at its roots (and maybe even in its 'trunk') is a definite truth, and I would love to write about it another day.
It is my belief that, in the future, we’ll all have nano-computers wired to our brains so that the answers to any unsolved curiosities we ponder are instantly projected onto our minds.
Of course, in order to hold our attention, the information projected onto our minds will have to be in