Short Attention Span: How to stay focused without distractions

serious woman reading book at table with mug of drink

Easily distracted? Can’t focus on one thing at a time? Does your mind always seem to wander?

Well, same here.

I got inspired to write this article because I was dealing with a serious case of a short attention span. So, I went on google and started making my research. I asked several questions about why I couldn’t seem to focus. 

My mind is usually all over the place and I find myself leaving projects half done and moving to another one.

I was worried.

The worst feeling is when I’m researching a topic for an article and I have to read long blog posts, my mind wanders, I start thinking about something else, and I’m unable to grasp what I’m reading.

Another common occurrence is when I’m working on my phone or laptop; I suddenly remember something I had left undone, then I close my work or open a new tab on my chrome, or worse, I leave the work to check my social media pages.

There were also times I zoned out while someone was talking to me and by the time I came back to reality, I had to start racking my brain to figure out what the person had been saying so I could put the pieces together quickly in case they asked for my opinion.

This was when I realized I had a short attention span and I needed to work on it if I wanted to live a more productive life.

And without checking the internet, I already knew they were signs of a short attention span.

What is Short Attention Span

Short attention span is the inability to focus on one thing for a long period of time and research shows that it is usually common in children of a certain age.

But what happens when adults get this same attention span deficit? Is it a bad thing? Is it a disease?

Fear not!

It is not unusual. A 2016 research also showed that an average human’s attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish. Funny right? 

But not untrue!

The life of an adult is one filled with worries, expectations, plans, and uncertainties. More than half of every human being you encounter has one thought or the other plaguing their mind, which has caused a great decrease in our attention span.

Short attention span has now become a common issue in our generation today and with 50 out of 70 adults owning a smartphone and being on social media, it is a given that there will be a greater decrease in our attention span in the future.

How Can You Know You Have a Short Attention Span?

If you can’t already deduce from my story at the beginning of this article, I will list them out for you. Signs that show you have a short attention span. 

They are:

  • Inability to finish reading or comprehend long articles or long forms of writing. 
  • Zoning out when being spoken to or zoning out when listening to a podcast or audiobook and not being able to grasp what is being said.
  • Inability to finish a task before moving to another.
  • Thinking about so many things at once that you forget what you were just about to do.

These are just a few signs but they encompass a lot of other things. If you feel this way or you deal with this every day, then you definitely have a short attention span.

What Causes Short Attention Span?

Sincerely, if you don’t have ADHD, dyslexia, or a head injury, and if you are not depressed, then your decrease in attention span is caused by life happening to you.

You can have a short attention span when you think about a lot of things. If you’re also the type that worries a lot or tries to do so much at once, you are at risk of a short attention span.

Most times, short attention spans are also caused by our lack of discipline. If you cannot make yourself finish one thing before doing another, gradually, you will begin to get used to leaving important things for unimportant things.

Other times, it is not your fault that you can’t pay attention for long, but if it starts affecting important projects and your daily life, then you need to do something about it.

Relates Posts: How Perfectionism can Affect your Life and Productivity

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How to Increase Your Attention Span

The good news I will like to share is that without google, I cracked the attention span spell and increased my attention span. I also became more focused.

How did I do it?

Listen to White Noise and Nature Sounds

Whenever I write, I get easily distracted by the littlest sound and this makes me forget the next thing I am about to write. But then I noticed each time I turn on my white noise app and listen to these sounds, I am able to concentrate and I can go on to write up to 3000 words in a sitting.

I use Ambience android app on my phone. My favorite sounds are Thunder, Morning Rain, and Umbrella (under Rain Sounds). If you love rain, you will find Rain Sounds peaceful and delightful.

In this app, you will also find several other sounds in different categories. There are sounds for meditation, country sounds, night sounds (where you have crickets chirping sound), there is also city sounds (where you have people speaking, cars moving, etc.)

Each sound feels so real. And severally, I have been called weird by people who hear me listening to these sounds while working.

There is also an option of adding a song from your music library alongside the sounds.

So, if you think this is your type of thing, you should try it out. This app has helped me focus several times and whenever I have trouble focusing on a task, I turn on the sound and it works like magic. Try it out.

Also, as incredible as it will be to turn on as many sounds as you want, you can only turn on 3 sounds in the free version, but there is also an option to turn on more sounds for 48 hours, after watching an ad.

Lastly, if you would prefer something different, you can also substitute this sound for instrumentals (Music without the voice and lyrics). They also work well.

That is my little secret.

But, there’s more.

If this works for when you want to focus on a task, how about when you are speaking with someone or when you’re listening to a podcast? 

Will you turn on music or white noise to listen to them? LOL

Not at all!

So, here are other ways you can increase your attention span.

Discipline Yourself

This is especially for when you are doing one thing and you feel the urge to leave it to do something else. At this point, you have to make the decision to first finish what you’re doing before going to the next one.

There are times I get that sudden reminder in my head while working on a project to leave the project and check a page out on Twitter.

The thought will come harmlessly and make it feel like I can check the page in 5 seconds and get back to the project.

Alas! If I go on Twitter, one hour later, I will find myself checking out many other pages and abandoning my work.

So, the key is to say No to that voice until you complete your task.

Drink a Lot of Water

I have noticed whenever I drink water while working, I tend to focus more and I can go several hours on the job until I need to use the toilet. Lol

Drinking water works. If you want to increase your ability to focus without distractions while working, put a bottle or jar of water beside you so you don’t have to get up every time.

You should also develop the habit of drinking water always, even when you’re not working.

So you can focus better in other aspects of your life.

And lastly,

Take Notes 

I read somewhere that if you always rely on your brain for everything, you will wear your brain out and you might find yourself getting forgetful.

So, you can do what I do.

Whenever I get an idea or a thought comes to my mind, I pen it down.

Either I write in my physical note or I write in my phone notepad.

I always make sure to write it down immediately and I have noticed that whenever I do that, I never forget what I have written down, and if I forget, I can always go back to what I have written.

There’s only so much your brain can take at a time.

Short Attention Span is a common occurrence in a lot of adults today but not every adult understands why they can’t focus or why they are easily distracted.

Yes, It is a common and prevalent issue but it can also be easily solved when you work on your habits, practice meditation, take walks, become intentional about focus, prioritize your tasks, take notes, force yourself to read even when you’d rather check your Instagram, and so on.

These little changes in our acts and habits can cause bigger changes in our lives eventually.

Quick Question:

How has having a short attention span affected your life and what are some steps you plan to take?

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About Author

I am a Freelance Writer, Blogger, Content Creator, and Productivity Coach.

I am passionate about writing, designing, God, and helping people achieve their goals and be productive.