In the internet age, everyone wants to know how to increase their attention span. Yes, the internet has connected the entire globe, given everyone a voice, and provided us access to limitless information.
But it has also trained our brains1https://www.iomcworld.org/open-access/neurotransmitter-dopamine-da-and-its-role-in-the-development-of-social-media-addiction-59222.html to seek dopamine at the expense of focus. If the video of a gymnast executing a quadruple backflip isn’t stoking enough dopamine, then we immediately click on the next TikTok video, the next one, and the next one.
So how can you combat your entrained distractibility?
Below we’ll go over 32 tips to deepen your focus, improve your concentration, and increase your attention span.
What is Attention Span?
Your attention span is the length of time that you can keep your attention and interest fixed on something.
What Goes Into Increasing Your Attention Span?
There are three aspects to a large attention span:
- Your ability to cope with boredom,
- Your patience, and
- Your ability to be interested in a task
First is how you relate to boredom. Many people can’t stand boredom—only a quadruple backflip? *Yawn.* Next video, please!
Part of increasing your attention span is deepening your ability to be with boredom, restlessness, and other uncomfortable emotions that make you want to do something else immediately.
The second aspect of a long attention span is patience. If you are patient, boredom does not arise in the first place. With patience, you are content with slowness and subtlety and cease to crave the next sparkly exciting thing.
The third aspect of a long attention span is the ability to take an interest in anything. An attention span is the measure of how long you remain interested in a task—so if you improve your ability to get interested in the task, then your attention span lengthens.
In this post, you’ll receive tips on improving your attention span that will touch all three aspects.
Benefits of Increasing Attention Span
Improving your attention span can benefit you in all aspects of life.
It will make you a more effective and productive worker who can accomplish more work in less time and with less burnout.
A better attention span will make you a better friend who can listen with engaged empathy and stay present with the other person’s story and feelings.
Improving your attention span will make you a better lover who can stay with the subtle nuances of a sensual exchange.
Stretching your attention span will make you more proficient at your hobbies, where you can dedicate yourself to learning and improving more effectively.
Improving your focus2https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0963721412447622 can also support your memory and problem-solving skills, two abilities that touch all areas of your life.
Further, research correlates the struggle to control attention with the presence of anxiety3https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0215399#:~:text=It%20is%20thought%20that%20weak,cognitive%20feature%20of%20emotional%20disorders.; more attentional control means you have more agency on which thoughts run the show.
Enough said. Let’s figure out how to lengthen that attention span!
Stretch Your Attention Span with Uninterrupted Tasks
Since attention span is the measure of how much time you can stay on a task, one strategy is to find tasks that you can do for a long time. Sometimes boredom will come up, so you can practice being with the feeling without jumping ship.
Here are a few ideas.
Play concentration games
This study4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26333022/ suggests that practicing crossword puzzles 15 minutes daily, five days a week, can improve your cognitive abilities.
To increase your attention span, spend 15 minutes daily doing a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzle, or another brain game that tests your working memory and focus.
- Try one of our 30 Best Brain Games
Read a fascinating book (all the way)
Surveyors at Pew reported that “roughly a quarter of American adults (23%) say they haven’t read a book5https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/09/21/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/ in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form.”
Finishing a book start-to-finish can be challenging and requires a lot of attention.
Here’s how Bill Gates approaches starting a new book.
(Watch the first 5 seconds for his short answer!)
So pick a book and make it your goal to finish the entire thing! No starting a new book until you finish this one. Try to start with really engaging books and work towards more informational but dry subjects. We might be biased but start with our books! Our founder, Vanessa Van Edwards, wrote bestsellers:
- Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication
- Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People
Take notes on a podcast
Put on a lecture, Ted Talk, or podcast and listen to it from start to finish. To help stay engaged, actively take notes.
Social scientists at Princeton and UCLA found that taking notes with pen and paper increases conceptual retention6https://linguistics.ucla.edu/people/hayes/Teaching/papers/MuellerAndOppenheimer2014OnTakingNotesByHand.pdf more than notetaking on a laptop. Here are a few juicy podcast interviews with our founder, Vanessa Van Edwards, that we love:
Meditate for 10 minutes (or 2!)
Researchers at the University of Washington7http://faculty.washington.edu/wobbrock/pubs/gi-12.02.pdf found that a mindfulness meditation practice helps improve your focus and attention span and decreases your need to multitask. Go for 10 minutes. If that’s too much, start with 2 minutes and add a minute every day.
There are many ways to meditate, but here are a few you can try.
Put on a timer for ten minutes. Sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and put your attention on your breath—either at your nostrils or in your stomach. Count each exhale. When you get to 10, reset and go back to 1. If you realize you’ve been daydreaming for who-knows-how-long, no worries! Just go back to 1.
Put on a timer for ten minutes. Sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and focus on your feet. Just notice what sensations are happening in your feet. Then slowly move your attention up to your ankles. Keep moving your attention up your body until you reach the top of your head, then start over. If you catch your mind wandering, bring your attention to the last part of your body you remember focusing on.
Tune into your auditory surroundings
Put on a timer for ten minutes. Sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and attempt to focus your attention on the sounds around you.
In this mindfulness technique, you internally note whatever you notice in your awareness.
So simply put on a timer for ten minutes. Sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and whatever you notice in your experience, just internally voice it.
For example, your internal dialogue might be: “left foot tingling … planning … ache in lower back … memories ….”
In this practice, you are training yourself to sharpen your awareness. If you catch yourself zoning out, just return to the practice. No shame!
For a longer description, here’s a link to what mindfulness teacher Cory Allen calls “Methodical Mindfulness Training.”
Try a mantra
A mantra is a phrase that you line up with your breath and repeat internally. It is a meditation tactic to anchor your attention. Some schools of meditation, like Transcendental Meditation, teach mantras that aren’t even in English.
You can make your mantra whatever you’d like, but as a baseline, you could try “I feel patient and focused.”
Simply put on a timer for ten minutes. Sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and with every exhale, internally recite the phrase “I feel patient and focused.”
Take a cold bath
Part of increasing your attention span is improving your ability to be with unpleasant feelings. What is more unpleasant than the cold!
Studies show that cold exposure stimulates the vagus nerve8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334714/, which can result in both improving attention and combating depression9https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35088719/#:~:text=Abstract,and%20to%20promote%20neuronal%20plasticity..
Try running a cold bath and see if you can stay in it for two minutes while taking deep breaths. The more cold baths you try, the easier it will get, and it might actually become pleasant at a certain point.
If you try this, research shows10https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150811103654.htm that taking a cold plunge after a workout hinders muscle growth, so time it accordingly.
Try a hot bath
Hot water may not have as much cultural hype as cold water, but it’s a time-tested pleasurable activity. Hot springs were a part of Ancient Greek culture thousands of years ago11https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5535692/.
This study from The University of Fukui suggests that spending time in hot water shifts theta wave activation12https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/61348976.pdf to reduce feelings of stress and increase feelings of calm.
Try putting on a timer for 25 minutes and submerging in a hot bath without distraction. If you want to get extra fancy, you can light a candle and put essential oils in your bath to bring pleasure to the nose.
Listen to music with your eyes closed
We usually play music in the background, which creates more stimuli to attend to.
Instead, try this. Lie down with your eyes closed, and listen to a song, album, or playlist without interruption. Let it take you on a journey!
Research shows that both classical and ambient music can help with concentrating13https://sereneapp.com/focus-music/ on simple tasks more than silence. The same study found that happy music helps more with focus than sad music.
Pro Tip: Try focusing on just one song a day. Over the next week or two, your ability to stick with a song without distraction increases!
Seek out flow state activities
Steven Kotler, a flow state expert, defines a flow state as14https://www.stevenkotler.com/rabbit-hole/frequently-asked-questions-on-flow “those moments of rapt attention and total absorption when you get so focused on the task at hand that everything else disappears. Action and awareness merge. Your sense of self vanishes. Your sense of time distorts (either, typically, speeds up; or, occasionally, slows down).”
Kotler’s research points to four triggers that can induce a flow state. As he puts it:
“1. High Consequences (some kind of risk: physical, mental, social, emotional, etc.)
2. Deep Embodiment (the engagement of multiple sensory streams at once, learning through doing)
3. Rich Environment (lots of novelty, complexity, and unpredictability in the environment)
4. Creativity (specifically, pattern recognition, or the linking together of new ideas).”
Flow states are a phenomenal way to practice absorbing your attention into an activity for a prolonged period. They are a rich opportunity to lengthen your attention span.
Here are some ideas on how to foster flow states with each of the above four triggers.
- Try an extreme sport involving physical risks, like mountain biking, snowboarding, or surfing.
- Engage friends in conversations about sensational or vulnerable topics.
- Sign up for a course that involves performance. Try improv comedy, stand-up comedy, public speaking, or singing karaoke at a bar.
- Try a team sport, like basketball, ultimate frisbee, or soccer, that requires synchronizing with your teammates.
- Take a partner dance class.
- Check out a spin-cycle class.
- Go to a concert.
- Do an escape room.
- Play laser tag in a laser tag arena.
- Invite a friend to engage in a brainstorming session about a topic you find compelling (e.g., types of parties you could throw, ways you could create opportunity in your career).
- Create a “mind map” with sticky notes where you map out your current life commitments and your values, and see how everything connects.
- Try playing the game Set, which is a pattern recognition game.
Install Healthy Habits to Naturally Increase Your Attention Span
If you were going to run a marathon, you’d make sure to sleep enough and eat the right foods to support your training. It’s evident that how you treat your body impacts your physical abilities and your body’s health.
The same applies to your mental abilities, brain health, and attention span. Here are health tips to help improve your attention span.
Take a walk for 20 minutes
Plenty of data suggests that exercise helps your attention15https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331183800.htm. In this study, students who took a 20-minute treadmill walk improved their scores on an attention-based test.
For many, physical activity can be daunting. But most people can do a 20-minute walk.
If you have a big task you need a lot of focus on, try going for a brisk walk right before starting.
And better yet, see if you can introduce a 20-minute walk into your day for the next week. If you find habit-forming difficult, use the power of accountability and invite a friend to meet for a weekly walk.
Sleep the right amount
You’ve probably come across plenty of content that praises the undeniable importance of sleep to your well-being. And when it comes to the human attention span, the story remains the same.
According to sleep researchers16https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/41/12/zsy182/5096067, about 29% of people get fewer than six hours of sleep a night, “which, in a laboratory setting, has been associated with impaired physiological and cognitive functioning.”
Additional studies found that a lack of sleep makes you more distractible17https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1359105319842927?journalCode=hpqa. Even a single night of poor sleep can impair your attention and cognitive performance the next day, and ongoing sleep deprivation will only worsen it.
Here’s an immediate action step. Be honest with yourself. Are you skimping on sleep at all? No shame in that; most of us are! But your challenge is to give yourself an extra thirty minutes of sleep a night for the next week and see how you like it.
Here’s a video of Kobe Bryant encouraging this tip.
On the flip side, sleep studies show that too much sleep can also negatively impact cognitive abilities16https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/41/12/zsy182/5096067.
If you are a person who tends to sleep more than you need to, try taking the opposite advice and see if you can sleep 30 minutes fewer a day.
This meta-analysis showed that dehydration hurts your ability to pay attention18https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29933347/ (as well as your planning ability, memory, and motor control).
Interestingly your entire body is about 57% water19https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body, and your brain is about 73% water. Don’t let your watery self shrivel up into a human raisin!
The amount of water you need daily depends on various factors20https://www.everydayhealth.com/dehydration/hydration-calculator/, but the recommended quantity is approximately 11 cups of water for females and 16 cups for males. For reference, a gallon is 16 cups.
Tomorrow, keep track of how much water you drink—either by carrying around a gallon jug of water that you glug throughout the day or by tracking your cups. That way, you can get a sense of how much water you drink and adjust accordingly. Here is one simple app that you can try.
Believe it or not, several studies link chewing gum to increased attention21https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449949/. There are different theories about why this might be the case, such as facial muscle engagement or the activation of the central nervous system, but none are certain.
Nonetheless, take advantage of this by buying a pack of gum and incorporating chewing gum into your work day. But spit that wad out before entering into a meeting so as not to seem too nonchalant.
Get into nature
Nature is not in a rush. It’s slow-paced.
This study shows that a 60-minute nature walk increases working memory and decreases anxiety22https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169204615000286. Though interestingly, the researchers did not find the same to be the case with a 60-minute urban walk.
Plan a time this weekend to go for a hike.
Set Up These Work Habits to Increase Your Attention Span
If you work or are a student, consider each day at your desk a massive opportunity to practice lengthening your attention span.
Here are some tips to set you up for success.
Work 100% and break 100%
Think of your ability to concentrate as a muscle. To strengthen it, you should engage it fully and rest it fully. If you over-work it, then you’ll burn out. And if you never let it rest, it’ll never fully recharge.
The folks at Desktime analyzed an extensive data set on worker productivity23https://desktime.com/blog/17-52-ratio-most-productive-people/. They found that the most productive people worked in a cycle of 52 minutes of focused work and then 17 minutes of concentrated rest.
Maybe 52 and 17 aren’t the correct numbers for you. There’s also a famous productivity technique called the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 focused minutes and then break for 5 minutes.
Whatever numbers you choose, the primary key here is that while you work, you make it a practice of concentration. You don’t open up Facebook or email or randomly decide to Google your name—no, you keep your eyes on the prize.
And then, when you’re resting, you are resting fully. You might stretch, gaze out the window, or talk to your housemates or coworkers, but you aren’t working.
For an action step during your next work day, try either the 52/17 or 25/5 technique. View your work focus and rest focus as periods of time to increase your attention span.
You can even use this fun visual timer to track your increments, recommended by the authors of Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day.
It’s also worth noting that you might be aiming at the wrong goals if you struggle to focus productively. If this sounds like you, check out this series on how to create better goals for yourself.
How To Set Better Goals Using Science
Do you set the same goals over and over again? If you’re not achieving your goals – it’s not your fault!
Let me show you the science-based goal-setting framework that will help you achieve your biggest goals.
Turn off notifications
According to McKinsey Global Institute, employees open 70% of their emails within 6 seconds of receiving them24https://ppm.express/blog/how-much-time-your-employees-spend-on-checking-emails/?ref=blog.mailmanhq.com#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20McKinsey%20Global,average%2011%20times%20per%20hour..
If you want your attention span to be longer than six seconds, this is a great place to start!
Think of how often you’ll be distracted if your phone buzzes whenever you receive an email or a text or when LeBron James writes a tweet. And how much willpower it takes to avoid the temptation to see what has entered your phone verse
But if you don’t get the notification alert, you don’t have to use any willpower to avoid opening it.
So nip this one in the bud and disable all notifications.
Respond in batches
To follow up with the last point, try batch responding instead of responding to emails right when you receive them.
Pick one to three times throughout the day when you can spend 10-25 minutes total responding to messages. In this way, you are cultivating your attention span by staying true to the task at hand—emails. And you are saving yourself from getting distracted from other tasks with incoming emails.
Keep a notebook for distracting thoughts
Ok, so you’ve decided to work for 25 uninterrupted minutes. But 4 minutes into your work chunk, you get this BRILLIANT idea. You need to invite your mom over for dinner so you can show her the creative project you’ve been working on, so she’ll understand you better, and it will heal your relationship with her.
This is huge! You must take action and text her NOW!
Not so fast.
Remember, you have committed to working for 25 minutes with focus.
So, keep a notebook by your side. Write in it, “invite mom over to show her my amazing model train set I’ve built!” And then get back to work.
Writing the idea down in the notebook will offload it from your awareness so you can focus on your task and trust that you’ve logged the idea to look at later.
If you want to improve your attention span, you’ll need to practice periods of doing a singular task at once. That means no multitasking.
Rescuetime looked at data from 50,000 users and found that about 40% of people multitask with communication apps alone25https://blog.rescuetime.com/multitasking/#:~:text=As%20multiple%20studies%20have%20confirmed,t%20actually%20getting%20more%20done.. This means that while working on a task, they also actively use Slack, Discord, text, etc.
The thing about multitasking is that our brain is just switching back and forth between tasks rapidly.
So remember, the definition of attention span is the amount of time you can stay concentrated on a task. By trying to multitask, you are training your attention span to be shorter.
As the authors of The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World put it:
“…if the two goals both require cognitive control to enact them… then they will certainly compete for limited prefrontal cortex resources… The process of neural network switching is associated with a decrease in accuracy, often for both tasks, and a time delay compared to doing one task at a time.”
Here are a few ideas to help you build the habit of doing only one task at a time.
As enjoyable as it can be to eat food while watching TV or listening to a podcast, next time you are eating a meal, see if you can make that your sole activity—just you and the food.
If you’d like to take this one step further, see if you can do only one task at a time for an entire day. So that means no walking while texting, cooking while listening to a podcast, or bringing your phone onto the toilet!
Now, it’s not that you should never do two things simultaneously. But if you feel called to give this experiment a shot, you might be surprised at how frequently your attention is toggling between multiple tasks.
Make your task list ahead of time
The version of you who writes your task list is the boss, and the version of you who executes those tasks is like the employee. It requires a different state of mind to be in boss-brain or employee-brain.
So for your next work day, try writing out a task list, or an itinerary if you will, of how you’ll spend your work day, what you’ll work on, when and for how long, and when you’ll take breaks.
This way, when doing the tasks, you drop into your focused routine and surrender into full employee-brain mode without needing to go into the meta-boss-brain mode to adjust your plans.
Ride the coattails of a flow state
Earlier, we talked about how to enter into a flow state.
One way to bring about more focus in your day is to either start your day with a flow state activity or to pair a flow state activity with a subsequent work block.
When you are in a flow state, you enter a space of extreme focus. If you engage in a work block right afterward, you can bring that flow state focus into your task.
As an action step, pick a flow state activity that suits you and spend 30 minutes doing that activity right before you start your work day tomorrow.
Bring in other motivations to increase your attention span and focus
If you have a long task to focus on, incorporate different motivations to help you say no to distracting temptations and keep focus.
Use the power of accountability
Imagine if you went through your entire workday with your boss sitting right next to you, assessing how effectively you used your time.
Aside from being invasive and anxiety-inducing, you would undoubtedly spend far less time on Youtube or searching your browser for baby animal photos.
This thought experiment demonstrates the power of accountability. You have more control over your actions when they are visible to someone else.
To use this principle, pick a personal project you want to spend three hours of work on. Call a friend and invite them to a co-working session. Start the co-working session by sharing what you want to accomplish and when you intend to take breaks. Then check in at the end to go over what you ended up getting done.
This will likely stretch your attention span into greater focus and productivity periods.
Now imagine that you and your friend each put $500 in an envelope and shook hands to agree that if either of you got off task today, you’d burn the $1,000.
Compared to a typical workday, think of how much easier it would be to stay focused when your money is on the line. And you’d probably feel even more motivated to focus when there is the chance to let your friend down.
While part of the motivation in this example is accountability, the other motivation is that you have something to lose.
To put this principle into practice, choose a project you want to focus on and set aside time to work on it. Then find a friend you trust and tell them that if you don’t get X amount done in your allotted time, you will spend $100 and buy the ugliest painting you can find at a farmer’s market.
If you choose this method, ensure that you make your work goal a bit of a stretch but definitely achievable!
You are using the emotional motivation of not wanting to lose your money to help you enter into a state of deeper focus.
If you can’t think of someone who’d make a good accountability buddy, you can also try the app stickK, where you make a commitment contract for your goal and put money on the line to achieve it.
Increase Your Attention Span by Making Your Tasks More Interesting
If the opposite of feeling bored is feeling fascinated, then learn how to approach your tasks in a way that makes them fascinating.
Turn your task into a game
If you have a boring homework assignment or have to do the same old work task again, you might know that it’ll feel dull and repetitive, and you’ll feel tempted to bounce between your task and Instagram. But in the name of practicing lengthening your attention span, see if you can reframe how you approach your task to make it more interesting. Make a game of it!
If you are a customer support specialist, can you challenge yourself to add a little extra sparkle to your email responses? Or can you challenge yourself to extend more empathy to each support request?
If you work in retail, can you tell a joke in every customer interaction?
Or if you have a lengthy draft to write, can you challenge yourself to finish it in ⅔ your usual time?
As an action step, look at a work task you have to do this week that you fear will be boring and create new rules to turn the activity into a game.
You could also try the app Habitca, which gamifies tasks differently. It essentially turns your life into an RPG video game where your real-life goals help you level up.
You can also try a Stop, Start, Continue exercise with your to-do list:
Turn your task into a growth opportunity
Similar to turning a task into a game, see if you can turn your task into an opportunity for your personal growth.
If you dread your morning meeting because you always zone out, think about an aspect of yourself that you’d like to cultivate. For example, do you want to become more kind? Or more empowered? And then see if you can use that meeting as a practice ground for that quality.
What would it be like to show up to that meeting with the goal of acting with as much empowerment as possible? You might speak up more or provide thoughtful alternatives to your boss’ ideas more often.
Approaching tasks with this mindset make them both more engaging and purposeful.
As an action step, pick a task you have to do tomorrow that you’re not looking forward to. Then choose a virtuous quality you’d like to cultivate. Then challenge yourself to use that task as a practice ground to develop that quality.
If you need help brainstorming, here are a few virtues:
- Personal responsibility
If you’d like to explore more thoroughly which virtues you’d like to focus on, check out this article.
We spend a good deal of our time engaging with other people, so why not use conversation as an opportunity to practice lengthening your attention span?
Practice your empathy
In your next conversation, keep your attention on your empathy. To do this, constantly imagine putting yourself in the other person’s position.
Based on what they shared, how would you imagine they’re feeling? What does the world look like from their eyes?
A straightforward way to practice this is by introducing this active-listening tool into your vocabulary: “If I were you, I imagine I’d feel ______.”
In your next longer conversation, see how often you can naturally weave that sentence into the dialogue. Putting your awareness on your empathy will lengthen your attention span, make you more present, and make your friend feel understood.
If you’d like to go deeper into building your empathy muscles, you can read more in this article.
Reflective listening is a technique where after your friend shares a sentiment, you reflect back on what you heard them say.
It may come off as mechanical if you reflect what they said verbatim. Instead, internalize what they said, and put it in your own words. For example, you might say, “Oh, so it’s like you’re putting in a ton of effort at work, but your boss doesn’t seem to notice?”
If you do it right, they’ll likely say, “Exactly!” and then elaborate further. Even if you miss what they said, they’ll correct you and still elaborate.
This technique will help people open up to you. And it is a way to use listening to increase your attention span.
Doing this type of listening requires you to focus on what the other person is saying and can help stretch your attention span.
Try to listen reflectively once in your next conversation as an action step.
We can attribute so much of our short attention spans to the infinite list of distractions that is the internet. So instead of building more willpower, one approach to improve your ability to deal with distraction is to eliminate the distraction from the get-go.
Here are a few ideas on how to practice that.
Put your phone in a drawer
Let’s be honest—what would it be if you had to point to the one thing that was most distracting in your life, the one thing that made it hard to stretch your attention span?
Definitely the phone!
In fact, this study found that when test subjects were working on complex tasks that required their full attention, their performance worsened when the experimenter had their phone visible26https://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/abs/10.1027/1864-9335/a000216?journalCode=zsp (mind you – that is the experimenter’s phone, not even the participant’s phone).
Just having a phone nearby distracts us!
So one way to reduce the distraction from your phone is to pick an amount of time—whether one day a week or just an hour a week—and put your phone (alongside your laptop, tablet, and other portable internet devices) in a drawer. Let yourself have some time untethered to the worldwide web.
Try a Light Phone
Another option is to try using The Light Phone.
This is a sleek, functional phone without access to the internet. It uses an electronic paper screen, like a Kindle, and can access maps but nothing else.
You might even keep your current phone and use the Light phone on certain days of the week.
Hide recommended videos on YouTube
If Youtube is the main culprit in stealing your attention away from your desired tasks, try the Chrome extension Unhook.
With this extension, you can still search for videos on YouTube, but YouTube will no longer bombard you with recommended videos on your home screen or sidebars.
A week with no social media
If you want to up the ante, plan a week where you take a break from all social media.
If the draw to check your feed seems too great to overcome, try Chrome extensions like News Feed Eradicator. Once installed, it will replace your Facebook newsfeed with an inspirational quote.
A week with no media at all
If you want to further up the ante, try an entire week with no media of any kind.
That means no social media, Youtube, podcasts, movies, TV shows, or books. As extreme as it sounds, such a hiatus could drastically change your relationship with your devices.
Julia Cameron, who teaches folks how to unlock their creativity and is most famous for her book The Artist’s Way, calls this tool “Media Deprivation.”
She writes: “When we are constantly interrupted, we lose our train of thought. When my students experiment with turning their devices off, they find that they are often flooded with ideas, even inspiration.
Media Deprivation casts us back onto ourselves, puts us in touch with our thoughts and ideas, and often frees up a lot of time.”
A weekend unplugged in nature
If unplugging for a week feels too long, try a weekend.
The easiest way to unplug for a weekend is to vacation in nature.
Whether renting a cabin or pitching a tent, you can simply leave your phone in your car.
If the idea of sleeping on an air mattress makes you queasy, you can try searching Hipcamp, an online service where people with large nature-y properties rent out cabins, yurts, or plots of land.
If you’d like more inspiration on setting up your own digital detox, then check out this article.
Attention Span FAQs
Your attention span might be shorter than you’d prefer because of today’s inundation with social media and notifications. Right when you open your internet browser, hyperlinks, ads, and suggested videos all tug at your attention. Each time you break your focus on the task at hand to click elsewhere, you are training your attention span to shorten.
But worry not! There are many ways to increase your attention span.
While lasting change might require more prolonged effort, you can increase your attention span quickly by disabling your phone notifications, engaging in long activities without interruption, and practicing meditation.
Unfortunately, yes. Studies have shown that TikTok, and all social media for that matter, are reducing our collective attention span.
TikTok trains you to expect satisfaction within just a few seconds. Engaging in longer-form content might start to feel slow and tedious.
The best ways to increase your attention span while working are to work for an uninterrupted block and then rest for an uninterrupted block, respond to emails in batches instead of when they arrive, and turn off your notifications.
Start by taking care of your body with enough sleep and hydration, set up work habits that diminish the chance of distraction, and then engage in prolonged activities where you practice focus.
Absolutely! Since attention span is how much time you can keep interest or concentration on a task, you can practice extending that time.
It requires a lot of willpower to force focus, and it is often easier to eliminate distractions in the first place. But meditation might make you more comfortable with boredom and less inclined to lose focus.
Try to engage in an activity that induces a flow state, this will put you in immediate focus, and then you can carry on with your day and bring that focus.
To Increase Your Attention Span, Just Remember These Principles
We live in a world full of endless distractions and temptations. There are entire artificial intelligent systems optimized to hook your attention and get you to click on stuff.
But all hope is not lost—you can take proactive steps to push back against the technological current and fortify your attention span. Just try any of the following:
- Intentionally engage in more extended activities to actively stretch your attention span.
- Try Sudoku, reading a book, or meditating.
- Incorporate habits into your life that make you healthier and naturally give you access to more attention.
- Start by sleeping 30 minutes more a night, drinking a gallon of water daily, or hiking in nature this weekend.
- Orient your work day around cultivating focus.
- Try to turn off your notifications, respond to emails in batches, and work 52 minutes of pure focus, followed by 17 minutes of pure rest.
- Bring in additional motivations to your work or creativity focus sessions.
- Try to find an accountability buddy to cowork alongside.
- Make your tasks more interesting by bringing a different mindset to them.
- Turn everything you do into either a game or a growth challenge to keep you more engaged and focused.
- Recognize that social interactions are a place to practice extending your attention span.
- Make it a practice to see how present you can be with other people. Start with actively empathizing and reflective listening.
- The easiest way to avoid distractions is to get rid of them altogether!
- Try a day a week without your phone, a week with no media, or a weekend unplugged in nature.
If you’d like to learn more about focus, this article is a great place to go deeper.