5 Ways To Improve Your Focus…Even if You Have the Attention Span of a Goldfish

Who has more focus?
Quick, who has the longer attention span…

the average poker player…


a goldfish?

Believe it or not, there are researchers who have assessed this and the findings are not too good if you are a poker player.

As of 2015, the average human being can stay on task without distraction for 8.25 seconds, while the average goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds!

Attention spans have dropped dramatically in the last few years. The average human attention span clocked in at 12 seconds in 2000…

That’s over a 30% drop in just 15 years!

Researchers attribute this drop to changes in external stimulation – that is we are constantly bombarded with highly stimulating images and content from the internet, our phones, twitter, and a host of other sources.

Attention span is measured in these studies as the amount of concentrated time a person (or a goldfish) can stay on a task without becoming distracted.  Being able to avoid distraction and stay on task is  important because it is the only way one can reasonably expect to reach one’s goals.

There is good news, though!

There strategies that you can implement that have been shown to improve brain function and increase attention span. Here are 5 of the simplest strategies that you can start using right away.

  1. Eliminate Distractions 

When we interviewed Patrick “pads1161” Leonard on the Mindset Advantage podcast (listen to the episode here) he talked at length about how distracted he often was while playing.

To temper his urges to check email, chat on skype, and poke around twitter or Facebook, he completely removed those applications from his computer.  You can also put your phone on airplane mode and refuse to respond to anything that attempts to steal your focus. The human mind is notoriously poor at multi-tasking and removing temptation is often the easiest solution.

  1. Exercise Regularly

In a recent study, Harvard researchers found that regular exercise improves memory and concentration.

You don’t have to turn into a complete gym rat, but getting your blood pumping for a half hour a day provides measurable benefits.

  1. Set a Timer

The Pomodoro Technique is a strategy for focusing intently on one task for a short amount of time.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a task to be done (for poker this could be studying or playing a session)
  2. Set a timer for n minutes (Start with the traditional 25 minutes if studying, but can be longer when used during sessions)
  3. Spend that time giving the task your full focus.
  4. When the time goes off, take a short 3-5 minute break
  5. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break (around 30 minutes)

You’ll notice that MTT breaks match up with this technique well, but sadly online MTT players won’t be able to do step 5.

  1. Know Your Poker Goals

If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s incredibly hard to focus and put in maximum effort.

Take some time and write out what you’d like to achieve in the next 30 days.

Break down the steps that you will need to complete to reach your achievement.

Dedicate time each day to focus on the steps. Bonus points if you use the Pomodoro technique described above to complete the steps!

  1. Read a Physical Book

Most people only read digitally these days and, believe it or not…

Physical books (the ones made of paper with those page things) still exist…


There is a difference between how your brain works reading digitally and reading a physical book.

With digital items, we tend to skim rapidly. Holding a book in your hand and reading it  trains your brain to focus for an extended amount of time.

If you are used to only reading digitally, a physical book may take some getting used to, but stick with it – the results will be worth it.

These are just a few of the techniques that you can use to increase the amount of time that you are able to focus and maintain total concentration.

Give them a try and maybe one day soon you’ll be able to give that goldfish a run for their money!

Do you have a favorite technique you use to help stay focused? If so, let us know by dropping a comment below or tweeting us @pokermindcoach 

About the Author Dr. Tricia Cardner

Dr. Tricia Cardner, co-host of The Mindset Advantage Podcast with Elliot Roe, is a peak performance strategist and is the author of Positive Poker with Jonathan Little. Follow her on Twitter: @DrTriciaCardner Want more ideas on how you can use psychology to improve your poker performance? Check out her website: http://www.drtriciacardner.com

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