10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Attention Span

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woman working on laptop at home
Self

Are you finding it difficult to focus or listen in class, pay attention to your boss in meetings, read a book, or get pretty much anything done? Sometimes even the simplest of tasks can exhaust our easily distracted brains, and it can be impossible to get them done without growing bored or fatigued.

As it turns out, suffering from a poor attention span is a pretty common problem. According to the researchers behind one study conducted at Harvard University, "people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy."

Of course, just knowing you’re not alone in your lack of focus won't increase your attention span, help you get your assignments in on time, or prompt you in those awkward moments when your teacher or boss asks you a question you can't answer because you spent the last 20 minutes thinking about what you should have for dinner.

RELATED: How To Identify The Sneaky Distractions That Keep You From Caring For Yourself

Fortunately, there are things you can do to increase your attention span and make even the longest work or study days a little more bearable.

Here are 10 simple tips on to improve your attention span:

1. Set specific goals.

Making a plan and setting goals keeps your mind on track and rewards your focus. When your mind starts wandering to your favorite video game or that slice of cake in your kitchen, it helps to have a to-do list to refer back to.

Write out some tasks you need to complete, and once you’ve responded to important emails, studied a whole chapter or written a couple of paragraphs of your essay, reward yourself. Many companies use reward strategies as a way to improve employee productivity, and studies have shown that employee incentive programs can increase profits.

Try rewarding yourself with little treats like a snack, or a couple of minutes of listening to your favorite songs.

2. Reduce your screentime.

You might find yourself coming home from work or school and unwinding by watching YouTube videos or scrolling through social media, but this can decrease focus in the long-run.

The internet encourages us to focus on quick reads and short videos before we move on to the next thing. If your brain is accustomed to short bursts of attention between scrolls, it won’t be able to stay on track when you’re in long classes or meetings.

Try listening to music, reading more books or even opting for longer, more mentally stimulating media, like a documentary or film.

3. Get more sleep.

A good night’s rest cures a lot, including a poor attention span. You need to be well-rested so you can sustain eight hours of staring at a computer screen or reading study notes. Try to stick to a regular sleep cycle — and yes, that means no staying up late or sleeping in on the weekends.

Your body has a natural circadian rhythm that thrives when you follow a routine. It also helps to go to bed earlier in the night and wake up earlier in the morning. This is because our bodies are naturally inclined to follow sun patterns.

So, say goodbye to those late-night cramming sessions and get at least 8 hours every night.

4. Meditate.

Meditation isn’t just for yogis — it’s a science-backed way to work on your concentration levels. One study found that meditation training improved cognition, leading to a better mood, increased verbal and non-verbal reasoning, and improved capability for manipulating mental information.

Set aside some time in the morning or throughout your day for some silent meditation. This quick mental reset will refocus you and spur on your productivity.

5. Exercise!

We already know how much exercise improves our physical fitness, but it’s also great training for your mental fitness.

According to one study from the University of Illinois, physical activity increases cognitive control. Students with ADHD who participated in 20 minutes of moderate exercise were able to pay attention longer and scored better on academic achievement tests.

Implementing a regular exercise routine into your week will benefit your productivity levels in work, school, and life, in general.

6. Take frequent breaks.

Our brains were not made to sustain prolonged periods of concentration, so even though it sounds counterproductive, give yourself plenty of rest throughout your day.

This process on engaging and disengaging your brain can come in a lot of different forms, but one popular method in science is the Pomodoro Technique. This technique breaks a task up into 25-minute blocks, followed by a 5-minute break.

After you’ve repeated this four times, you then take a longer break of around thirty minutes. This is a great way to structure your workload and resist fatigue or boredom.

7. Get outside into nature.

Nature has a powerful impact on our moods and focus. Even if it’s just a quick walk or a couple of minutes sitting in a park, spending time outdoors reduces mental fatigue and restores your attention span.

Use your break time to get some fresh air if you’re feeling a little lethargic. Some research even suggests that looking at greenery through a window or keeping plants in your workspace boosts productivity.

8. Stay hydrated.

Keep a bottle of water by your side at all times when you’re trying to focus so you can stay hydrated and energized.

A study carried out by the University of Barcelona found that as little as 2% dehydration can negatively impact your ability to concentrate. This 2 percent drop isn’t even enough to trigger thirst, so it’s essential that you keep drinking water regularly, even if you think you don’t need to.

9. Drink tea.

Water isn’t the only drink that will improve your attention levels.

Black tea containing theanine can help you retain focus. Theanine, which increases calmness and relaxation, interacts with caffeine to synchronize the brain activity related to attentional processing.

Coffee might be your usual go-to when you hit that afternoon slump, but it tends to make us crash after an hour or two. Tea provides more consistent alertness throughout the day compared to coffee, even when matched for caffeine content.

10. Declutter your space.

I’m someone who works with notes, snacks, books, and pens spread across my desk like a tornado hit my office space.

But being surrounded by mess often means you get too consumed in the masses of clutter. This decreases the brain’s capacity for focusing and processing information.

Tidy up your workspace so you can see and think clearly when trying to focus. Hold on only to what you need, and put things away once you’ve finished with them. This also means you won’t be getting up from your seat every couple of minutes to find a pen or notepad among the rubble.

RELATED: How I'm Slowly Learning To Stay Present In My Own Life

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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.