Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Have a Short Attention Span? 15 Ways to Improve It

Have a Short Attention Span? 15 Ways to Improve It

Technology has done wonders for society. Healthcare, transportation, and communication have also improved dramatically in recent years. However, it’s undeniable that the fast-paced, convenience-oriented mindset of modern society has given rise to more people with a short attention span.

Some signs of a short attention span include:

  • Missing important details
  • Difficulty communicating with others
  • Not listening during meetings and lectures
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Inability to follow through with tasks

In some rarer cases, short attention spans are caused by medical conditions such as ADHD.[1] More commonly, it’s a lack of focus derived from the modern world trying to pry our attention away at every waking moment.

If any of these signs are a common occurrence in your life, you might need to tighten that attention span of yours in the long term. These 15 ways can help you improve your focus so you can better seize every moment.

1. Curb Your Screen Time

It’s already been determined that electronics are causing many to lose focus. The easy access to social media sites, online videos, and endless web pages can spin our minds in constant circles. There is almost too much information and entertainment for us to handle.

Have you ever been sidetracked by a simple Facebook notification? To get your screen time under control, take your cue from kids’ phones.[2] Delete social media apps and games from your phone, and stick to texting and calling.

2. Remove Distractions

Your mobile device won’t be the only thing calling for your attention. Any number of distractions can squeeze your attention. Figure out what they are, and you can work on removing them.

Even minor distractions, such as background noise or a room that’s too hot or cold can make you fidgety and cause you to lose focus. Items cluttering your desk and workspace can cause anxiety and divert your attention even for just a second, which is just enough to break your rhythm.

For more on how to get into deep work and focus, check out the following video:

Advertising

3. Take Notes

If you find yourself in a particularly boring meeting or classroom environment, you may as well be begging for something to distract you. This attitude carries over to even the most important of meetings, where you could miss vital information.

To change this mindset, start taking notes. This activity demands your focus, which will help with that short attention span. Taking notes also improves memory, helps your brain recall specifics, and provides physical reminders for those important details you need to keep handy.

Furthermore, research has shown that “students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand,” so when taking notes, use a pen and paper instead of your device[3]

4. Drink More Water

Staying hydrated is of utmost importance to your physical health. It also helps you combat a short attention span. Dehydration eats away at your focus and ability to think. Even the slightest amount of dehydration can make a significant difference.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. The key is drinking consistently, not just guzzling an entire bottle right before you need to focus. Develop a habit and you’ll never have to worry about dehydration getting in your way.

5. Get Some Exercise

Exercise is beneficial in so many ways. Taking care of your body helps you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Helping improve your focus and short attention span are some of the many benefits of regular physical activity[4].

There’s no need to add hours of rigorous activity to your schedule. If you’re just getting into the exercise game, an e-bike might be just the boost you need. Even a short walk can get your blood moving and brain activated. Outdoor exercise is especially beneficial, as the sunshine and sights of nature do wonders for your brain and psyche.

6. Try Meditating

The complete opposite of exercise is doing nothing. Meditation isn’t sitting there idle—it’s an alternate way to try and regain your focus and spend time focusing on the present. It involves a series of short steps to calm you down, increasing your attention span.

Most forms of meditation require a calm atmosphere coupled with breathing exercises. The extra oxygen stimulates your brain, and the cadence of breaths helps you to relax and reclaim your mind.

Advertising

On a particularly difficult day, give meditation a try. Find a private place, turn on some calming sounds, and enjoy the peace your brain deserves.

7. Take a Break

When it all gets to be too much, give yourself a much-deserved break. While meditation is a conscious effort to regain focus, stepping back to just get away for a few moments can also work wonders.

If your focus keeps getting drawn elsewhere, take some time to address it before returning to your original task. Whether it be a five-minute break for fresh air or a three-day weekend in the woods, giving yourself a “brain break” can help you regroup and buckle down on your goals.

8. Chew Gum

It’s odd but it’s true: Chewing gum can help you focus.[5] While it doesn’t have any magical properties, this simple activity can keep you engaged long enough to carry out an activity without getting too distracted.

Ever popped in a piece of gum to stay awake on the road? The same goes for focusing at work. If you find your mind slipping during the workday, try a piece of gum. This could be the push you need to dig in and complete a difficult task or make it to the end of the day.

9. Stop Multitasking

A lot of people pride themselves in their ability to multitask. While this is a valuable skill, constantly dividing your attention between several tasks can worsen a short attention span.

When you feel yourself starting to slip, stop multitasking for a moment. Force yourself to slow down and focus. Some days, you’re just not going to have the attention span to tackle multiple projects effectively at the same time. It’s OK in those moments to take one task at a time.

10. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain is at its wit’s end. It’s incredibly hard to focus on something when all your mind and body want to do is sleep. To improve your attention span, make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep every night.

Develop a consistent sleep schedule that helps you get to bed at a decent time each night. This will help you stay well-rested each day. Too little sleep stretches you thin, while too much can make you feel groggy and sluggish. Both are extremes that you’ll want to avoid.

Advertising

You can read more about the importance of sleep and its effects on productivity here.

11. Turn the Music Up

Music can be distracting for some, but for others, it allows them to focus better. A good playlist can act as a pair of blinders, filling your mind so that distractions can’t get in your way.

The best kind of music for your attention span is instrumental. Lyrics can crowd your thoughts and compete for your attention span. Calm genres, such as classical, are better than upbeat ones that can work you up too much when you need to buckle down and focus.

12. Practice Active Listening

While this is more of a soft skill than the others on this list, being able to listen is an underrated practice. Too often people think about what to say next instead of listening to what is being said to them.

Failure to listen is a classic sign of a short attention span. The next time you engage in a conversation, practice listening intently to every word that’s said. This will lead to healthier dialogue and help you improve that attention span by keeping you grounded to the present.

13. Experiment With Timeboxing

Timeboxing is a time management method used by many business professionals.[6] It involves blocking off a section of time to dedicate to a specific activity.

When the block starts, all you worry about is what you have scheduled for that time. When the block ends, you move on to the next time block[7]. You can even set a timer if that helps. 

Try timeboxing to help a short attention span

    This method can help you maintain focus throughout your day. Use it wisely, and you’ll be able to control your attention span and maximize your productivity.

    Advertising

    14. Try Intermittent Fasting

    Periodic fasting is a practice embraced by many world religions. While it has its spiritual connotations, it’s also a recognized method to help with weight loss, cleansing, and yes—increased focus.

    Fasting should be done smartly. Don’t go without food for too long or too often—you still need that energy to properly function. Balance your intermittent fasting, and those periods of time can help you clear your mind and take hold of your attention span.

    15. Play Some Brain Games

    Your brain is a muscle—if you want to strengthen it, you need to use it in different ways. If your goal is to improve your attention span, you can play some brain games that are built to help with that.

    Rather than mind-numbing video games, look for puzzles and activities that help improve your focus and attention[8]. Simple exercises, such as math, patterns, and memorization, don’t take much time, but repetition can really make a difference.

    Final Thoughts

    If having a short attention span is negatively affecting your work, mental health, and personal life, it’s time to change it. Following these 15 tips will help you improve your focus and attention span.

    Tackle your focus issues one day at a time for the short term. Patience and practice are all it takes to build a longer, more durable attention span.

    More on Improving Your Focus

    Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    John Hall

    John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

    The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work How to Quit Social Media for a Happier and More Focused Life social media distraction 12 Easy Ways to Beat Social Media Distraction Effectively 8 Reasons You Have Trouble Concentrating (and Their Solutions) How to Focus on Yourself and Accomplish Your Goals in Life

    Trending in Focus

    1 How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction 2 How To Create A Daily Schedule To Organize Your Day 3 12 Simple Strategies To Improve Your Mental Clarity 4 How To Increase Focus At Work: 12 Brain Hacks 5 The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on February 25, 2021

    How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction

    How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction

    Nowadays, if you’re not on social media, you feel like you’re not truly living in the 21st century. Everything from businesses to personal and professional relationships, social media has a strong presence—and with that, a luring temptation to spend even more time using its features.

    While it still provides platforms where we can connect with friends and family, it has exponentially grown to an online version of the Vegas strip: advertisements, videos, and links inviting us to turn our attention to the next latest and greatest trend or product. According to a recent article by Forbes, having a potent social media strategy is critical for businesses and consumers alike.[1] We make a tremendous amount of purchasing decisions based on content provided to us via social media channels.

    Likewise, we also tend to “follow the flock” when it comes to new trends, ideas, fashion, and unfortunately, even politics. While the positive side of social media is that we now have more freedom of expression, the shadow side is still just as present: we can easily lose our sense of individuality.[2] It’s a slippery slope—and one that often takes a bit of time and consequence to realize and change. This is why the term “social media addiction” has taken root in the health and wellness industry as one of the causes of mental health issues.[3]

    Social Media Addiction and How It Affects Health

    How we use social media has drastically changed since the dawn of websites like Facebook. Initially, Facebook’s platform was a simple way of connecting with friends and family and posting cheesy pictures or status updates on Facebook’s “wall.”

    Over time, however, with the emergence of a more picture-oriented platform like Instagram, we upped the ante. This is where the slippery slope emerged, and we’re still dealing with it presently.

    Advertising

    Take a look at some of the most popular Instagram profiles today. You’ll likely see a pattern of manicured photos and perfect layouts, followed by millions of users. This has become an “Instagram goal,” and it perpetuates the idea that beautiful pictures equate to a happy user. We know that’s simply not the case, but this mentality and desire to create a perfect life online for all to see is feeding depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

    Likewise, it’s causing us to lose our sense of authenticity and realness because the “real world” problems don’t make for beautiful social media posts. Instead, we hide behind the beauty that’s only covering up our sadness, grief, or loneliness. Because we’ve carefully created our online world, we’ve stepped out of our real one. Social media addiction is this practice of escapism.[4]

    So, how do you take back the reins of your life and curb your time on social media (and stop social media addiction)? Here are some steps to get started.

    1. Think About Why You’d Like to Be on Social Media

    Everything we do in life is about intention: why do you want to do something? What will it bring you? The same goes for social media use. It may be silly to ask this question when thinking about a Facebook or Instagram account, but if you want to truly control your social media (instead of the other way around), asking this question may truly be eye-opening.

    Do you want to just keep in touch with friends, or do you want to promote your business? Getting to the crux of why you’re online will help you clearly mark your time on social media effectively and eliminate everything else.

    Advertising

    2. Be Meticulous About Who You Follow and what you post and share

    Attention is your greatest currency. Read that again.

    Everything that you click on or “like” becomes a thread in the tapestry of what comes back to you on social media newsfeeds. You want to create the kind of information spread that works for you, your needs, and your time. So, often, we impulsively follow people who may not be serving our best interests.

    Give yourself permission to clean those contacts out every once in a while! It’s okay to disagree with someone. Instead of plummeting into a rabbit hole of social media thread arguments, unfollow anyone who you don’t connect with. It’s much better for your mental health and helps you get rid of social media addiction.

    Likewise, be meticulous about what you share. Are you posting misinformation yourself? Just like you are planning on cleaning up your contacts list, someone who follows you may be thinking of doing the same. Make it a priority to share and post things that not only have significance to you but also serve others.

    3. Curb the Time You Spend Online

    If you have a laundry list of things to get done but have spent the last three hours scrolling your newsfeed, it’s time to close the app or the computer. Set a timer on your phone, if that’s what it takes to solve your social media addiction.

    Advertising

    Once you begin the practice of detaching from being online so much, you’ll notice that you get so much time back! This time has always existed, but you were just using it poorly. It’s not that you don’t have enough time—it’s just that you spend too much time scrolling online instead of being productive.

    4. Change Your Notification Settings

    If your productivity is suffering because you’re constantly distracted by the pings from your notifications, there are ways to turn those notifications off in your settings. Better yet, you can always delete the apps from your phone and devices and resolve to check your social media notifications on your desktop. This way, you can get back to finishing your work without facing the temptation of checking your messages.

    5. Not Everything Has to Be Posted and Shared

    It often feels like we’re in a perpetual case of “FOMO” when it comes to posting on social media. If the Superbowl came and went and you didn’t post anything at all, will the world continue to spin? Of course.

    We don’t have any social obligation to our followers to keep them abreast of every single event that happens in our life. These are choices that we must make consciously and in alignment with our desires.

    Think about the last concert (in the pre-COVID world) you went to—did you immediately post bits of the concert to social media or snapped and uploaded a selfie of you and your friends?

    Advertising

    These are habitual things that we don’t even think about, which brings me to the final point…

    6. It’s Okay to Put Your Phone Down and Enjoy Life

    In fact, this one very simple point could truly help you cut that social media addiction! Precious moments of your life are one in a million—like seeing a shooting star or catching the smile of your favorite person. These moments are so fragile, and they never happen the same way twice in your lifetime.

    Don’t run towards your phone to capture that moment. Capture it instead with your eyes and with your heart. Let it become a sweet memory. Enjoy the moment you’re so keen on sharing with others and instead, prioritize sharing it with yourself.

    Final Thoughts

    Social media addiction, when left unchecked, can lead us to depression and lack of self-worth and authenticity. If we “follow the flock” in search of creating a perfect online life, we’re stepping further away from being ourselves. This brings about a slew of consequences, which can snowball over time and lead to worse obstacles in our lives.

    When we finally learn how to use social media, to what extent, and with what intention in mind, we can take control over it before it takes control over us.

    More on Social Media Addiction

    Featured photo credit: Ryan Plomp via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next