What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal

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. 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. 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:

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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

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.

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.

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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. 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.

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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. 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. 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.

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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. 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