Directed Attention Fatigue and Restoration

Preserving Directed Attention-- An Overview

We get Directed Attention Fatigue when we concentrate too hard or too long, or when we fight off too many distractions. While we can’t eliminate it entirely, we can do things to reduce it and to facilitate recovery once we are fatigued.

Restorative activities
Three of the most important restorative activities are also useful for preventing Directed Attention Fatigue.

1. Walk in nature: This can prevent attention fatigue as well as healing your attention system.

2. Get fascinated: Our Directed attention system rests when we interact in an effortless way with something innately fascinating, such as watching animals, kayaking, playing with babies.

3. Sleep sleep sleep: Sleep makes your brain work. Not enough sleep hurts it—and particularly hurts directed attention.

Preventing mental fatigue
These focus on preventing DAF, especially by reducing the cognitive load.

1. Clear the decks! Prioritize, clarify and simplify. Finish things. Run fewer models at once, get your story straight. Reduce your workload, take steps to reduce worry and confusion. Reduce the number of decisions you have to make, Limit your choices.

2. Develop useful habits: Sink things into automatic habit form which requires less attention to deal with them.

3. Use built-in attentional strengths: Fascination, learned fascination, flow. Preplan while rested, use stop rules and reloads.

4. Use your environment: In addition to restoration, our surroundings can provide useful cues, reminders, external storage, helpful people.

5. Compatibility: Find and create suitable environments in which to work.

6. Who R U? Clarify who you are, what matters to you, what you want.

7. The big picture: Find wise people, science, old stories, and spirituality to help understand how things work, what to expect, what matters, and what to let go and leave to other people, God, the universe.


Bargh, J. and Chartrand, T.L. (1999) ‘The unbearable automaticity of being’, American
Psychologist, 54, 462-479.

Cimprich B. (1993) Development of an intervention to restore attention in cancer patients, Cancer Nurs. 1993 Apr;16(2):83-92.

Kaplan, S. (1978). Attention and fascination: The search for cognitive clarity. In S. Kaplan & R. Kaplan (Eds.), Humanscape: Environments for people. Belmont, CA: Duxbury. (Republished by Ann Arbor, MI: Ulrich's, 1982.)


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