How to Increase Your Attention Span (+ Tips and Techniques)
Do you find yourself struggling to concentrate on tasks for more than a few minutes at a time? The motivation—and potentially a caffeinated beverage—is there, but despite your best efforts, you just can’t get yourself to pay attention.
If that sounds like you, you might have a short attention span.
Does that get your attention?
First things first: Don’t worry. While it might take some effort, increasing your attention span is possible. Think of it like a muscle: the more you work at it, the stronger it will be. So read on for some tips and techniques that can help you improve your attention span and increase your productivity.
What is Your Attention Span?
Before we dive into how to improve your attention span, it's important to first understand what it is and why it's important.
Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Attention Span
Your attention span refers to the amount of time you can focus on a task without getting distracted. And various research studies suggest that attention spans are task-dependent, meaning how much attention you apply to any given task will vary depending on what the task is.
Having a good attention span is crucial for productivity, as it allows you to complete tasks more efficiently and effectively. It also contributes to your overall well-being, as being able to concentrate on and complete tasks can reduce stress and improve your mood. After all, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of wrapping up a productive day.
Factors That Affect Attention Span
If there’s one thing we know to be true about attention spans, it’s that they’re always changing—daily, hourly, and even every minute.
That’s because there are many factors that can affect your attention span, including sleep, stress, nutrition, and technology use. Lack of sleep, for example, can make it difficult to concentrate on tasks for long periods of time, while excessive stress can lead to mental fatigue and distractibility. Similarly, a poor diet or excessive use of technology can negatively impact your ability to focus.
However, by understanding these factors and taking steps to mitigate their impact, such as setting a consistent bedtime, using meditation to reduce stress, eating a well-balanced diet, and limiting your screen time, you can begin to improve your attention span and increase your productivity.
7 Benefits of a Good Attention Span
Having a good attention span can lead to many benefits:
- Increased productivity: The ability to focus on tasks for longer periods of time can help you avoid the sunk time cost of task-switching and allow you to get more done in less time.
- Better memory retention: A longer attention span allows you to absorb new information more effectively, leading to better understanding and memory retention.
- Enhanced problem-solving skills: With a good attention span, you can concentrate on complex tasks and find solutions more efficiently.
- Stronger relationships: Better focus enables you to actively listen and engage in meaningful conversations, fostering deeper connections with others.
- Increased creativity: By maintaining focus on a single idea or project for longer periods of time, you're more likely to generate innovative thoughts and ideas.
- Greater self-discipline: Developing a good attention span helps cultivate self-control in other aspects of your life, such as managing impulses and avoiding procrastination.
- Reduced stress levels: Completing tasks with ease due to an increased attention span can lead to a sense of accomplishment and reduced feelings of stress or overwhelm.
If the benefits of a good attention span are, well, that good, how can you start improving yours?
Top Techniques and Strategies to Improve Your Attention Span
There are many techniques and strategies you can use to improve your attention span, stay focused on tasks, and increase your productivity. Here are a few that are effective:
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for improving your attention span and training your mind to stay focused. It involves paying attention to the present moment, which can improve your ability to concentrate on tasks.
To incorporate mindfulness meditation into your daily routine, try setting aside 5-10 minutes each day to start. You can use a guided meditation resource like the Balance app or try other mindfulness exercises to assist in your practice.
Maintaining healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity, can also improve your attention span. These habits contribute to your overall well-being, which can help you stay focused and productive in the long term.
Some healthy habits that can improve your attention span include getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day.
Effective time management is another key factor in improving your attention span and increasing your productivity. By breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable steps and prioritizing them effectively, you can reduce stress and stay focused on your goals.
To improve your time management skills, try using a planner or calendar to schedule your tasks, and prioritize your most important tasks first. You can also try using the Pomodoro technique, which involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break.
Taking breaks from technology can improve your attention span and help you stay focused on tasks. It probably comes as no surprise that excessive use of technology, such as social media or email, can be a major distraction that negatively impacts your ability to concentrate.
To detox from technology, try setting specific times each day to check your email or social media, and turn off notifications on your phone or computer.
Setting clear goals can help you stay motivated and focused on tasks.
To set effective goals, try using the SMART method, which involves making goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Let’s say you’d like to read more. Here’s an example of how you can achieve that goal more effectively using the SMART framework:
- Specific: Instead of just saying you want to read more, get specific and say, for example, you want to read three books in one month.
- Measurable: Verify that you can easily track your progress. In this case, you can. It's easy to monitor how many books you read in a given month.
- Achievable: Confirm that the goal is realistic by understanding the commitment it'll require. In this case, that might mean devoting a daily minimum of 30 minutes to reading. If that feels possible, then you're on the right track.
- Relevant: Consider your motivation to read more. Maybe it's personal growth, knowledge acquisition, and/or entertainment. A goal is solid when it properly ladders up to your ultimate motivation.
- Time-bound: By making the goal more specific, a time frame of one month was added. Time-bounding goals in this way instills a sense of urgency and a clear timeline, and it makes them more measurable, too.
Breaks and Movement
It might seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks and incorporating movement into your workday can actually improve your attention span and help you stay focused. Short breaks can help you recharge and refocus, while movement can increase blood flow to your brain and improve cognitive function.
To incorporate breaks and movement into your workday, try taking a short walk or doing some stretching exercises every 30 minutes or so. You can also try using a standing desk or walking to the bathroom that's farthest away from your workstation.
Studies show that a cluttered environment can increase feelings of irritability, frustration, and overwhelm, which is not conducive to concentration. Many people find it difficult to focus in noisy environments, too. So it’s important to minimize as many distractions as you can in your space, such as noise or clutter, to help improve your attention span and keep you focused on tasks.
To create a distraction-free environment, keep your workspace as tidy as possible. You can also try using noise-canceling headphones, turning on a white noise machine, or playing calming music to help you stay focused.
3 Common Attention Span Obstacles and How to Overcome Them
Maintaining your attention span and staying focused on tasks is easier said than done. Here are a few of the most common attention span obstacles:
Procrastination is a common obstacle to maintaining attention span, but it can be overcome with the right strategies. To overcome procrastination, try identifying the root cause of it, such as fear of failure, lack of motivation, or not knowing where to start. Once you understand why you're procrastinating, you can work to address it and give yourself more time to complete the task at hand. Another strategy to help overcome procrastination is to break down tasks into smaller parts and give yourself deadlines for each. Because when you have firm due dates that actually feel attainable, you’re less likely to let something slip.
Distractions, such as social media or email, can also make it difficult to maintain your attention span. To overcome distractions in your environment, identify what they are, and then see what tools exist that could help you minimize them. For example, you might consider using the "do not disturb" feature on your phone or messaging program if that's constantly pulling at your attention, or setting specific times to check your email or social media feeds and sticking to them.
Multitasking can make you feel productive and engaged. But in reality, it can negatively impact your attention span and productivity. To stop multitasking, intentionally focus on just one task at a time and avoid the temptation to switch between tasks. This becomes easier after you get good at prioritizing your to-do list since you can then have confidence that you're working on the right thing at the right time.
Start Improving Your Attention Span Today
Despite various obstacles, improving your attention span and increasing your productivity is possible with the right techniques and strategies. Whether it’s through mindfulness meditation, incorporating healthy habits into your routine, using effective time management techniques, or all of the above, you can start improving your focus and concentration in no time.
One way to start improving your attention span right away is to download the Elevate app on iOS or Android. It has 40+ brain training games—including several designed to increase your focus and concentration—personalized training programs, and a dedicated memory training skill group to help you achieve greater success in all areas of your life with laser-sharp focus.