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Prompted By Attention Span

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When I think back on my professional life, I’m amazed and humbled by how I could concentrate on complex and intricate tasks that I couldn’t imagine doing now. I could laser focus and often have music or even talk radio in the background, for an hour at a time.

My current clients pay me to focus, which is a real incentive, and when I despair of my diminishing attention span, I think about the nice people (really) at one of my clients. They are millennials or Gen-Zers, and there is a lot of TLDR going on. The problem is, their business requires a lot of detailed technical information for reference. I review their marketing documents, and often I’m the only one who reads them word-for-word. They often thank me for such a “thorough reading” and wonder how I can do it.

However, sometimes my attention span runs out of steam, and in other parts of my life, my focus dims. Once I remember to get bills paid, etc, and there is leisure time, I find I can read a book for only 15 minutes or so, often mimicking the fragments of time the other tasks take. Now that I am taking on more caregiving responsibilities, being “interrupted” is often a factor as well. “Where is my … can you find my …”

And oops, my mother is coming in 10 minutes (for real as I write this), so are we set up for the family Zoom, and did I take out the chicken for lunch? Off to the next time fragment …

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Marian, this is a wonderful story in so many ways. Comparing your early professional life with your clients now. I love your sentence “They are millennials or Gen-Zers, and there is a lot of TLDR going on.” They need you to do the close reading for them, and you are still good at it. But being so focused for your clients, and then have to be the same at home, I can imagine that it’s a struggle. Thank you for writing this today, even though it was 10 minutes before your mother was coming for lunch!

  2. Well Marian, they do say if you want something done, give it to a busy woman! And despite the Covid slow-down and the unexpected luxury for many of us of now working from home, it seems we’re all somehow still too busy.

    And how lucky that your mother is coming for a chicken lunch!

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Dana, I do feel lucky to have my mom around. There seem to be a thousand things to do, such as help her with her cell phone and tablet, catch up with her granddaughter (my niece), and such. Despite the shorter attention span, I’m not bored.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Marian, I love how you talk about “time fragments.” That’s so typical of how many of us are living our lives now. It also explains why I have been reading books this way lately. Not a great plan unless I can retain what I read during my previous fragment.

    • Marian says:

      I get it, Laurie, and I’m thinking that’s why I’ve been reading books that aren’t very complex, so I can pick up a train of thought quickly once I resume reading. My best times are in the morning, when I read a (print) newspaper with breakfast, and right before I go to bed.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    You’ve given us a real glimpse into how life gets so fragmented that we CAN’T pay attention in long spans any longer. Yet, you must and your young colleagues marvel when you do because short attention spans seems to be endemic now. Bravo for keeping your life together and doing what needs to be done, including the attention to detail, when it is called for. I find I miss those more and more frequently.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I learned from google that TLDR means “too long, didn’t read”—I can use that every day! That describes most of what comes into my inbox. I admire your proof reading abilities, and think that is becoming a lost art, as TLDR becomes anything longer than a tweet.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    Great Featured Image choice!

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