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How to Lengthen Attention Span

By Dr. Usmarah Hussain

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How to Lengthen Attention Span

The human brain is truly the most amazing thing in the world. It has led us to the moon, helped us cure smallpox, and built the pyramids. But when this immaculate organ does not seem to go 5 minutes without checking Facebook, you are forced to whether there’s something wrong with it.

The answer is yes, and the problem is what experts call a short attention span. Whether you are a student preparing for a test, a 9-to-5 employee at a busy corporate office, or simply a housewife, a short attention span can easily prevent you from being as efficient and judicious as you normally are. While this problem is more prevalent in children, almost everyone can suffer from it at any point in life. The reasons can be anything from poor dietary habits to an underlying mental health condition.

Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions available to people who aren’t blessed with a longer attention span. This guide will outline some of these feasible options to lengthen your attention span and maximize everyday productivity.

Why Has Our Attention Span Decreased?

Attention span refers to your ability to focus on an ongoing task without letting any distractions interrupt you. It also plays an essential role in carrying out conversations and interacting with others and may vary from one person to another. Some factors that directly impact your attention span include hydration, surroundings, and even the simplest things like whether you have taken your lunch.

Maintaining attention has suddenly become more complex than ever, especially with increased external stimulation. However, most psychologists still consider it task-dependent, which means that the way a person applies their attention depends on how important the task is, how interested they are, and the nature of stimuli around them.[1] A short attention span is, in reality, the body’s response to stimulation or stress and is quite common for many people. However, if it has been becoming a problem for some time now, your short attention span might be because of one or more of the following issues:

  • Depression
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Trauma
  • Learning disorders, for example, dyslexia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

If this is the case, you may require professional behavioral therapy to improve your attention span. For the rest, the tips laid out later in the article may be enough to enjoy the skill of focusing on a task without getting distracted again and again.

Increasing the Attention Span: What Needs to be Done?

A lengthened attention span can serve as a key to unlocking extra productivity and efficiency at work. When this happens, you can successfully dedicate yourself to demanding tasks without allowing outside distractions to hinder your performance.

If you are curious to know how you can increase your attention spans, below is a list of extremely useful yet straightforward tips to incorporate into your daily life:

Stop Multitasking

Instead of having multiple things competing for your energy, try to concentrate on a single task simultaneously to stay focused on one thing at a time. While multitasking makes you feel like you are ahead of the game, it can put an increased strain on your brain and demands much extra energy to constantly switch between tasks.[2] Multitasking can even lead to more mistakes and reduce overall work efficiency. So instead of juggling between different tasks and performing mediocrely in all of them, take one task at a time and ace it with total concentration and heightened attention span. Don’t forget to add breaks in between to allow the brain to rest and maintain focus.

Multi tasking and attention span

Use Active Listening

Practice active listening whenever you can to help focus on the smaller details of every task and get it done more actively and productively. [3] Some ways to do it are by concentrating on what others are talking about instead of compiling your response, listening to podcasts with high concentration, and maintaining calm body language.


While physical activity strengthens your muscles and reduces stress, it can also do so much for your brain. Regular exercise can improve your mental health and cognitive performance, granting you more self-control. Multiple studies investigating middle-aged adults have highlighted benefits regarding cognitive control due to repeated and isolated workouts.[4] Every type of physical activity, even as simple as a brisk walk, can bear good benefits for your attention span.

Keep Up with Hydration

If you have been struggling with a shorter attention span, you might be having mild dehydration. Studies have discovered that dehydration can impair cognition, especially for tasks that involve motor coordination, executive function, and attention.

Lucky for us, the human body is actually good at signaling when to drink water. So the minute you feel even slightly thirsty, stop whatever you are doing and grab a glass of water. Drinking water in small quantities throughout the day can help the body constantly absorb fluids and is better than sipping on an entire glass of water at once.

Play a Game

Do you like playing games? We have got good news for you. As you spend time playing your favorite video game, you are also building up your brain muscles to increase your attention span with time. Research suggests that games that target your memory and require focus, such as jigsaw puzzles, word searches, and Sudoku, can greatly improve concentration. [5]

As with exercise, you can considerably increase your attention in a short time span simply by concentrating on a game. As little as 15 minutes a day for five days a week can train your mind well enough to make a difference.

Practice Meditation

Meditation not only benefits mental health but can also do wonders in terms of lengthening attention spans. As you meditate, you are training your focus which, over time, is likely to expand. Think of meditation as weight training for your brain: the more you practice it, the more easily you can focus.

While other practices, such as having a nutritious meal, can help improve focus, meditation is more powerful in increasing attention spans. If you have never meditated before and are not sure where to begin, try downloading a mobile app to slowly incorporate it into your daily routine. Just make sure to hide your phone when you are doing it, as it is one of the major distractions you need to avoid.

Take Baby Steps

Remember that to accomplish larger tasks; you sometimes need to take baby steps. So at any point when you feel like your attention is slipping away, think about the small steps you can take to accomplish the overall goal. Make a list of all these smaller steps and tick them off one by one. No matter how small or insignificant these steps may seem, remind yourself that they are bringing you closer to completing your objective. Make this a habit to improve your focus and attention span in the future.

Restructure Your WorkDay

Have you ever noticed how you are more likely to veer off into another headspace on longer and more boring work days? This is why it’s crucial to restructure it by breaking the work schedule into smaller chunks with breaks in between. When you have something to look forward to, such as these frequent breaks, your mind can give undivided attention to whatever is happening.

Research studies suggest dividing the workday into more manageable and less intimidating chunks to improve attention span.[6] Further into research, experts have found that working for 45 to 60 minutes on average, followed by a 15-minute break, can serve as the sweet spot for maximized attention and performance. Doing so will not only keep you more focused but may as well let you enjoy your work.

Conclusion: Start Focusing on What Matters

Increasing your attention span can undoubtedly bring you plenty of benefits and help you excel at your job. If you are not sure what’s causing trouble with your attention span, focusing on finding a root cause is recommended so that you can choose a more suitable solution. Additionally, you can also implement as many of the strategies mentioned above as possible to hone your concentration and focus levels and perform your best.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the average attention span?

According to most experts, the idea of an average attention span is unfounded and meaningless as it is most commonly task-dependent and varies. How much attention a person applies to a task will differ according to the task demand. This is particularly true considering different examples, such as many people may get tired of using social media apps within 30 minutes but can sit through a movie for up to three hours without losing focus.

Why should I focus on increasing my attention span?

Lengthening the attention span can bring plenty of benefits for different people. For some, it can increase productivity by allowing them to sit for long hours at work and work smarter instead of harder. For others, it can improve overall performance, get difficult jobs done with ease, and improve interactions at work.

Can these tips work for people with ADHD?

Inattention is one of the most common manifestations of ADHD. While the everyday strategies described above can help them lengthen their attention span, they must only be considered as an adjunct. For complete treatment and adequate management of the symptoms, it is necessary to keep in touch with a psychiatrist and work out a suitable treatment plan.


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