Attention is an important skill. It plays an integral role in almost everything we do. Attention is vital when we engage in daily activities such as paying bills, driving a car and safely walking through a busy parking lot. After a brain injury, many survivors notice significant challenges in the realm of attention. Their attention spans may be much shorter, they may find themselves now to be far more easily distracted than they once were, and multitasking may no longer be in any real way feasible. Here are a few tips to help improve attention:
1. Find a quiet location to work on activities. The more quiet the surroundings, the less likely distraction is to present as a significant factor while completing those activities.
2. Remove all distracting items such as cell phones, Ipads and radios while involved in activities. One should also silence ringer/alarms on phones and watches.
3. Let other people in the vicinity know that silence is needed when working on an activity so as to minimize likely instances of disruption. Often, a “Do Not Disturb” sign works well to notify others to be quieter.
4. Break down activities into smaller, simpler tasks. It is much easier to pay attention to smaller, simpler tasks than it is to contend with larger, more complex activities.
5. Do one activity at a time. All people, whether they have a brain injury or not, are better at focusing on a task if they tackle just one activity at a time rather than make an attempt to multitask.
6. Organize activities before starting them. It is far easier to focus on organized activities than it is to grapple with disorganized ones. Good organization also provides a road map for how one can most successfully approach a task.
7. Schedule regular breaks during activities. Most people can only pay attention effectively for a limited period of time until they need a rest and that already limited period may be significantly diminished following a brain injury.
8. Set up a reward to accompany completion of an activity so as to help with motivation and focus. For instance, watching a favorite movie or eating a favorite snack could be arranged as a reward to be enjoyed upon conclusion of a task.
9. Make sure to eat well, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. If a body is not functioning at its top level, attention skills will often be the first cognitive skills to suffer. Many brain injury survivors find that strictly adhering to a well-considered health regimen is far more important to success after an injury than it was before.
10. Ask people to speak slowly or repeat themselves if paying attention when they are speaking proves difficult. People get far more upset if their audience misses what they are saying than if they have to repeat themselves in order to ensure that they are fully understood.
11. If in a group of people, be sure to stay facing the person who is speaking. If there are too many people around to effectively attend to, ask the person speaking if he or she could step away from the group to make focus more attainable.
12. If in a classroom or meeting, make sure to sit in the front of the room so as to be closer to the speaker. This not only removes as a factor distracting people and noise along the pathway to the speaker, but it also demonstrates interest in what the speaker has to say.
13. Place a fan or a white noise machine by doors to help eliminate distracting noise coming from the outside of rooms.
14. Place a bright colored piece of paper under a book being read. This helps the eyes to stay focused on the book instead of on outside distractors since our eyes are naturally attracted to the bright color. Also, one can place a brightly colored ruler, index card or piece of paper under the line being read so as to help keep eyes focused on that line.
Hopefully this provided a few ideas on how to help improve attention!
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org