Public Health

Increasing Your Attention Span

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Today's digital world is moving faster and louder than ever before. Our smartphones alert us with constant messages, our social media accounts with a never-ending feed, and our laptops with constant pings—and this steady flood of information is decreasing our attention spans by impacting brain chemistry and cognitive function.

Since technology isn't going away, it's necessary to develop healthy habits that can minimize its negative effect on our brains. We're sharing tips to stay focused.

Our Concentration is Taking a Hit

The human attention span has shortened significantly since the development of smartphones.

A short attention makes it harder for us to:

  • Be good listeners
  • Complete tasks, even simple ones
  • Manage a busy household
  • Meet deadlines
  • Remember important details

Experts are particularly concerned about children losing the ability to focus on tasks that don't offer instant gratification, like solving a puzzle, following a recipe or reading a book.

How to Remain Focused

Concentration can feel challenging as we try to focus on everyday tasks. But it can be done with a little practice. Remember, developing new habits requires repetition and persistence over time. As a first step, figure out what time of day you're most productive, and take advantage of that time to accomplish your most challenging tasks. It also helps to focus on one task at a time rather than attempting to multitask.

10 Tips for Staying Focused

  1. Create a schedule and stick with it. It's easy to get distracted if you're bored with what you're doing. Creating a schedule with times for what you need to do ensures there will be time later for what you want to do. Sticking to this plan and setting a few priorities each day can help you stay focused.
  2. Eliminate distractions whenever possible. To meet a deadline, you may need to silence your phone, turn off non-critical notifications and put it out of reach. If you have a busy work environment, find ways to shut out the distractions around you, like noise-canceling headphones.
  3. Get enough rest. Not getting enough sleep contributes to lots of physical and mental health issues, including your ability to concentrate.
  4. Step away from technology. Researchers are discovering new ways screen time affects our mental health and cognitive function. Try taking a walk to relish only the sights and sounds around you or having a meal with your family to enjoy the conversations you didn't even realize you'd missed.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Managing stress and practicing mindfulness can improve your ability to stay focused.
  6. Be active each day. Physical activity helps with brain function, sleep quality and many other health factors. Weave some physical activity into each day.
  7. Eat nutritious foods, and drink plenty of water. For healthy changes, consider a plant-based diet and other foods that boost your mental health. Dehydration can impact how well your brain works, and the caffeine in coffee and energy drinks can have dangerous side effects.
  8. Listen to music. Some people use nature sounds or music to focus and study. Try gentle sounds at a low volume, but remember, this doesn't work for everyone. If you're singing along or focusing on the noise instead of the task at hand, turn it off.
  9. Take breaks. Believe it or not, taking short breaks from intense mental focus can be good for your brain's ability to concentrate. If you find yourself distracted during an important task, walk away. When you return after a few minutes, be ready to tackle it head-on.
  10. Practice active listening. Challenge yourself to pay close attention when others are speaking. Focus on what the person says rather than how you plan to respond. Active listening takes time and practice, but it's sure to help you at work and at home.

We’re Here to Help You Be Your Best Self

If you have difficulty meeting deadlines and find yourself constantly distracted, meet with your primary care doctor for advice. We're here to help you not only accomplish key tasks but to feel whole. Learn more about our behavioral health services.

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