Moving Forward with a Short Attention Span: What to Know and What to Do

A short attention span can be more than just a procrastination instigator. You could lose your job because of an inability to remember details, wreck a relationship through miscommunication, ruin your grades, or get stuck in a downward spiral with inadequate focus to pull yourself out.

So yes, a short attention span is a real problem. And no, it won’t just go away. You have to do something about it. And I’m here to share exactly that.

What’s the Average Human Attention Span, and What does it Mean?

Attention span is how much time you can concentrate on a given task without getting distracted. A popular saying suggests that you would’ve already lost your attention by the time you finish this sentence. And a humble goldfish would beat you to it. That’s eight seconds. But you’re still here, right?

It is difficult to pinpoint how long human beings can concentrate on tasks because several factors can change the results. Thus, the average human attention span changes with age, interest, state of one’s mental health, and lifestyle.

sleepy black man using smartphone
Getting distracted quickly and frequently is not normal (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Do You have a Short Attention Span?

In this day and age, it is easy to get distracted. Notifications, billboards, music, news alerts, and other sensory stimuli are everywhere. But if you’re unable to pay attention at crucial moments and often forget important details, that’s a clear sign that you have some serious trouble focusing.

Getting distracted quickly and frequently is not normal. It could indicate an underlying mental condition or learning disability such as depression, ADHD, dyslexia, and autism.

The Signs

So how do you tell if your attention span is lower than average? You may:

  • Keep searching for how to focus on reading to enjoy books like the old times but to no avail
  • have trouble paying attention during movies and videos longer than a few seconds
  • zone out unconsciously during conversations and struggle to listen to and remember what others are saying
  • not be able to organize your things or manage time
  • feel overwhelmed by simple and routine tasks
  • often miss or arrive late to appointments and birthdays
  • appear careless and irresponsible to others despite trying your best
Signs You Might Have A Short Attention Span ︱ CAYLLLES

Things that Affect Your Ability to Focus on a Task

Your brain can only process so much information in a day. If you spend hours on an internet video or binge a tv show, it will get tiring. And this can affect your attention span. However, other problems can also result in a short attention span.

Learning Disabilities

If you have trouble focusing on learning tasks such as writing, calculating, or reading, you might have a learning disability. Other symptoms of learning disabilities include the inability to coordinate your eyes and hands, poor memory, and poor concentration.

Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD can make it harder for you to focus.

Anxiety is characterized by excessive nervousness, trembling, and a racing heartbeat.

The signs and symptoms of depression are easy to spot, and the most common ones include a lack of desire to do or enjoy anything and increased irritability.

People with ADHD have periods of hyperactivity and hyperfocus but can also forget their own birthday.

PTSD puts the body in an emergency mood, reduces concentration, and makes people forget important details.

Scrolling for Longer Periods

Shorter attention spans are often a result of excessive internet usage. If your attention span is decreasing, try limiting screen time.

Woman using mobile phone while lying in bed in evening
Shorter attention spans are often a result of excessive internet usage (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Your average attention span will not improve if you do not get enough sleep, no matter how many distractions you erase from your life. Your mind needs to rest to recover from the day.

Physical Conditions

You should consider physical conditions, too, when you want to identify potential stumbling blocks. Chronic pain can alter your mind in several ways because of constant stress. So you might not be able to focus as well as an average person.

How to Increase and Protect your Average Attention Span

Living with a short attention span can feel like a burden. Forgetting important dates and details may stress your relationships, both personally and professionally. But you can prevent that. Here’s how.

Rest Before you Attempt your Best

If you get distracted quickly or are frequently unable to focus on a task, you might need some sleep. That’s the first and foremost thing you should keep in mind. Adequate rest allows your brain to function normally.

Try a Few Simple Strategies to Remember Things

People forget things all the time. But if your ability to recall things is lower than average, you should incorporate a few simple strategies into your routine. For example, keep memo cards with you, journal what you did last week, sync reminders across all your devices, use visual cues where possible, and test yourself before an exam.

man thinking and taking notes while sitting at table with laptop
Try to journal what you did last week (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Finger Paint and Other Activities that Bring Creativity

The average human attention span has changed drastically over the years due to social media. Therefore, you should monitor and control your screen time and have a set of activities to do instead. Finger paint with your friends, bake some cookies or read a book.

Chewing Gum can Also Improve Attention Spans

It might sound surprising, but chewing gum while studying can improve memory, understanding, and attention span. The science behind it is simple. It keeps your body alert and reduces stress levels.

The Master Trio: Water, Diet, and Exercise

You will find this advice under every health-related article, be it mental or physical. And this one is no exception. Water is your brain’s best friend, and so are nutrition and exercise. A healthy body gives your brain more capacity to focus on the task at hand.

Get Therapy

Emotional overload can also reduce your attention span. Try incorporating a few emotion-focused coping strategies in your routine or see a therapist.

If things are getting worse and you’re unable to focus on a basic task without getting distracted, then it’s time for you to seek professional help. Your therapist will help you create a personalized plan to help you stay focused.

You Can Do It!

I think Dug the Talking Dog speaks for all of us with short attention spans when he says, mid-convo, “Squirrel!” Your ability to focus is directly tied to your mental and physical health. Once you take care of those two things and reduce your screen time, your attention span will improve automatically.