In the age of bottomless social media scrolls, we unconsciously train our brains to flit from one clip to another, like a moth to a flickering flame, consuming seconds' worth of information but losing hours of productivity in the process.

According to Gloria Mark, an informatics professor at the University of California, our average attention span is shrinking, and we're slowly losing our capacity to focus on one task for more than two minutes.

Interestingly enough, the word "focus" shares a root with a crackling fire. It originally meant "fireplace" or "hearth," and back in the 1600s, fireplaces were the central point of a home. This brings me to a rather promising hypothesis. Perhaps the answer to increasing our attention span lies in the earliest meaning of the word in a bygone era.

The core idea of it all— silencing the noise by rekindling that internal flame of concentration. So, join me, as we revisit what it truly means to focus in a world full of distractions.

Qualifying "Short" Attention Span

A short attention span is not the absence of focus. Rather, it is the rapid shifting of focus from one task to another unrelated subject. It's the difficulty paying attention to the task in front of you and taking every possible mental detour imaginable. Here's a quick and common example:

You're writing a report for work. A notification pops up on your phone. You check it. You think, "Since I'm already holding my phone, might as well check my social media apps real quick." And then, "real quick" turns into a two-hour binge-watch of cooking videos.

Frequent distractions like this don't just affect productivity, they are also said to shrink our attention span faster than a woolen sweater in the dryer. The antidote? Concentration. Concentration means controlling the center of your attention. It gives you the ability to avoid distractions and form new habits that make you more productive.

But to gain that ability, we need to address the root cause (or causes) of poor attention span. Let's talk about that below.

What Causes Poor Attention Span?

Here, we dive into the nitty-gritty: What are the things that affect focus? The primary causes of your scattered attention are elusive, and it takes a steadfast mind to identify the culprits. While numerous factors could be causing you to lose focus, they all fall under one or a combination of the following:


Distraction is the arch-nemesis of sustained attention. They're baits, and you're the prey. If you bite, you're lured into another dimension where your important tasks simply don't exist.

Distractions can be internal or external, but one is just as vicious as the other.

  • External Distractions: pinging notifications, your phone (and its shiny social media apps), the TV, etc.
  • Internal Distractions: thinking about what to have for dinner, anxiety over tomorrow's tasks, self-imposed rules (I need to do this before I can do this other thing).

Internal distractions can sometimes look exciting and positive because of their allure for personal and professional growth! But more often than not, it's just a case of SOS (AKA Shiny Object Syndrome), chasing the big things and leaving behind a trail of unfinished tasks isn't productivity.

Unhealthy Lifestyle

An unhealthy lifestyle is like a puppeteer working in the shadows. You'd think you're doing just fine and your losing focus is just a result of feeling unmotivated or tired.

But skipping breakfast, a chaotic sleep schedule, dehydration, or high sugar intake could actually be causing your brain to run on fumes, thus, making it tough to concentrate.

Environmental Factors

Look around your room right this moment. How many of the things you see are not in order? Yes, something as simple as visual clutter could be causing your mental clutter.

The worst part of it is that sometimes, we don't even notice how a messy environment is affecting our brains. So, when you feel like you can't concentrate despite trying so hard, try cleaning your room. A house in order may just be what you need to improve focus.

Medical Conditions

Did you know that diabetes causes poor memory and affects concentration? It's just one of the many medical conditions contributing to a poor attention span.

Some medications, especially stronger ones, could also make you feel drowsy or bleary. That's why visiting your doctor is also essential to keeping your overall well-being in check.

Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and other afflictions could cause you to lose focus on a particular task. Although not rare, these conditions are sometimes difficult to detect.

While a scattered mind is not a disorder, these issues that lurk beneath the surface are. If you often find it difficult to quiet your mind, especially after trying out all sorts of ways to address your poor attention span, a diagnosis from a mental health professional might be in order.

Don't worry. You can still be productive with ADHD!

Addressing Short Attention Span: The Bandaids

You don't fix a leaky faucet by tearing down the entire house. Sometimes, addressing a short attention span refers to quick fixes you can do almost immediately.

Therefore, I present to you, The Bandaids. Use these as first-aid techniques whenever you start having difficulty concentrating.

Just a reminder that these are quick fixes. It's always better to aim for lasting changes in your lifestyle for meaningful results. Long-term habits make everything feel more natural, not just like ticking boxes on a list everyday. We'll get into those in the next chapter!

Digital Detox

How do you make sure you don't fall victim to the common pitfalls of smartphone interruption? Eliminate distractions. You wouldn't be distracted if the potential distraction was not there in the first place. Put your phone in silent mode, place it on a shelf far from where you work, and uninstall social media apps if you need to! Reducing avenues for mental detours is how you stay in the present moment.

One Reddit user shared on r/selfimprovement that as a kid, they were able to focus on a single task for hours, but in a world where they're "required to have a smartphone and be responsive to constant information," the ability to focus was lost along the way.

Interestingly, the 2nd most-voted response was "dopamine detox" through the deletion of social media apps and keeping the phone out of reach. (The response that got the most upvotes was to read books. We'll talk about that later.)

Melody Over Mayhem

By a show of hands, how many of us find cafes very conducive to working? One of the many things that add to their calm, relaxing ambiance is the background music. So, why not take that element and bring it to your home office? Studies have shown that certain types of music can help sustain focus. Yes, listening to music can get you in the mood to do work!

But remember, this focus bandaid is a double-edged sword. You want to make sure that the music you listen to creates a productive and calming environment, like classical music, nature sounds, or songs without lyrics. Otherwise, you might end up singing hakuna matata all afternoon!

To-Do: Make A To-Do List

To-do lists help improve our attention spans in two ways. Firstly, writing your tasks down will solidify them, making them easier to keep track of. (Forget mental notes. Switch to real notes instead.)

Secondly, checking them off, regardless of whether the task is big or small, will significantly increase your motivation, driving you to do more work. So, before you start your day, make it a habit to create a to-do list (if you have your Goalswon app you already know this one by heart)!

One Small Step, One Giant Leap

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew from NASA didn't just wake up one day and decide to fly to the moon. It took years of planning and preparation, accomplishing smaller tasks, before everything was set to send mankind to our nearest celestial neighbor.

Granted, you're probably not on your way to space, but you get my point. One of the many reasons why we easily lose focus is because of how overwhelming the task ahead is. The solution? Break it down into smaller, manageable tasks— put all your attention to the next step instead of worrying about how far the destination is.

Multitasking Is A Myth

Have you ever tried juggling flaming chainsaws? Yeah, me neither. It's just too stressful! Oh, did I mention dangerous? It's the same thing when you take on multiple tasks at once. You're simply inviting a fiery disaster your way by exposing yourself to increased errors, dropped tasks, and heightened stress levels.

There's no such thing as multitasking! The concept of doing multiple things at once is actually called task-switching, and that's not productive nor is it good for your attention span, either. That's also why organizations are advocating for single-tasking these days. They lead to better focus and, therefore, increased productivity. There's also the bonus of lower stress levels!

I mean, handling one flaming chainsaw is much better than juggling two.

Stay Up With Productivity Apps

Okay. I didn't mean to paint your smartphone (and technology, in general) as the villains of every story about our shrinking attention span. When used correctly, they can actually be your allies for conquering demanding tasks and making sure you stay focused!

There are numerous productivity apps that will help you manage your time, stay on track, and minimize distractions. But these are just tools; the discipline will still come from you.

After all, the greatness or destructiveness of any invention lies in the hands of the one who uses it. Remember: the chemical that created the atomic bomb is the same chemical that powered the spacecraft to explore our solar system.

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Focus Fitness: Long-Term Solutions For Longer Attention Span

In learning how to increase attention span, one must remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint. While the bandaids above will help improve your attention span in the short term, you need more than that for the long haul.

Staying focused is about staying mentally fit. You can't expect your body to look like Zeus's overnight. It takes training, time, and effort. By the same logic, long-term solutions are also necessary for increasing your attention span.

Sleep Is For The Geek!

How many times has someone told you to "sleep on it" before making a huge decision? Ever wondered why? It's simple. A well-rested mind is a focused mind. Human brains are wired to switch to "survival mode" when you don't get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation triggers our bodies' sympathetic nervous system.

In other words, it puts our bodies on high alert. The heightened alertness is akin to being lost in the wilderness, constantly scanning for potential dangers. This could significantly reduce your ability to focus on complex tasks.

So, get that much-needed shut-eye (recharge your brain!). Aim for 7 to 9 hours (depending on your age and activity levels) of quality sleep every night.

Healthy Plate, Focused State

Did you know that using regular instead of high-octane fuel on a race car will significantly affect its performance? It would still run, of course, but the reduced power means it's not working at its full potential.

How your mind works, in a way, is just like that. Your brain is the race car, and food is the fuel. Unhealthy food leads to poor cognitive performance, while healthy food leads to improved brain function.

So, optimize your physical health by making sure your plate is always healthy! That's how you develop a brain that's mastered the art of focus.

Mindfulness For Your Mind's Fullness

A significant portion of the stress you experience comes from the anticipation and worry about tasks, not the task itself. A stressed mind is almost sure to lose attention rather quickly. So, when the world gets too overwhelming and noisy, remember that you have the power to quiet it down.

How? Mindfulness or meditation. If there's anything you should take away from this guide, it's this: It's okay to pause life from time to time, especially if a million thoughts are bouncing around your head. Meditate, take a walk, and write in your journal. You can even try mindfulness apps or meditation podcasts to follow this practice to the T.

Move Around!

It's not uncommon to think that working out is mainly for the development of the body. After all, it's a physical activity, right? However, did you know that several studies have shown that exercise is actually our neurons' VIP pass to the cognitive buffet? Yep! Exercise can boost memory and focus. Plus, it makes you more creative!

Okay. I know you don't want to add gym membership to your monthly bills, especially with its really complicated cancellation policies. But exercise, per se, isn't limited to lifting dumbbells and plates.

Ride a bike, walk around your neighborhood, run! Heck, dance in the living room if you want to! These physical activities should get your endorphins pumping! Remember, "the mind is a terrible thing to waste."

"Oh, but I keep forgetting I need exercise!" Well, maybe some habit-tracking apps in your life will help you nudge and stay accountable.

Read, Read, Read

When was the last time you were so engrossed in a book's storyline that you didn't realize you were reading it for about half of the day, not paying attention to whatever was happening around you? Guess what? That's focus, in the purest sense of the word. Think of reading as strength training but for the mind. Forcing your brain to focus on the book's narrative is akin to training it to filter distractions.

Eventually, "read, read, read" translates to "engage, explore, experience." Engaging with a book allows you to explore a different world, experiencing it in its entirety. And what's a better way to sustain attention than to be captivated by the allure of new experiences?

If you're unsure where to start, try reading positive psychology books! A self-compassionate mindset might help you regain your cognitive control.

Retrain Your Brain

You don't learn to ride a bike by reading tutorials all day. It's the act that teaches you how to do it successfully. By that token, turning your brain into a focus powerhouse requires practice. It starts with awareness. Paying attention to your bad habits is the first step to learning how to break them.

Next comes the challenge. Once you're aware of the habits, challenge yourself with focus techniques. Tell yourself, "I must stay on this task for 20 minutes before reaching for my phone." Then, go from 20 minutes to 30 minutes, then an hour, then two hours. Over time, your brain learns how to stay focused for hours, eventually improving your attention span.

One response on a Reddit thread called r/productivity encapsulates this perfectly. It said,

"Whatever you do at any time, do only that."

Read when you read. Drive when you drive. Eat when you eat. Watch TV when you watch TV. Be in family when you're in family. Nothing else. That's the main essence of focus.

Seek Professional Help

All this to say, not every case of shrinking attention span can be solved with focus techniques, be they short-term or long-term solutions. If you've tried every trick (and tip) in the book but your mind still feels like a runaway train, there might be something lurking under the surface.

There's no shame in that! Think of it this way: we go to an optometrist to have glasses made and help our vision. The same principle applies to seeking professional help to increase our attention spans. So, when focus feels like an elusive fish slipping out of your hand no matter how hard you try, seek help.

The relationship you have with your future self will be built on gratitude, because the present you knew how to take care of your mental well-being.

Food For Thought

  • How much time do you spend on your smartphone each day? What meaningful activities could you be doing with that time instead?
  • How's the quality of your output when you multitask? Will working on one task at a time be more efficient?
  • When was the last time you learned something new not because you had to, but because you wanted to?
  • How much of your incapacity to do work is caused by feeling overwhelmed? Is it easier for you to approach smaller tasks?
  • Look around your workspace. What distractions could you remove to create a more focused environment?
  • When was the last time you slept for 8 hours straight? How did you feel when you woke up?


Why is my attention span so short?

A short attention span could be caused by a wide range of factors. A noisy environment, visual clutter, or even an underlying condition could be contributing to your loss of focus.

Some of these can be addressed by practicing short-term and long-term focus techniques. Nonetheless, visiting a mental health professional or having an accountability coach should also be beneficial to your progress since you'd have someone measuring it.

Does TikTok reduce attention span?

TikTok, or any other similar apps that showcases short-form content, may affect a person's attention span. While the effects may not be immediate, one study found that users constantly exposed to short-form content notice a general decline in their attention span over time.

How do you fix poor attention?

While several short-term solutions might boost your focus, getting adequate rest (through sleep and relaxation), eating healthy, and exercising (physically and mentally) are some of the best methods to fix a poor attention span.

However, remember that even Hercules had someone beside him, shouting, "Rule number 95, kid. Concentrate!" Someone with expertise on the subject, like a mental health professional or an accountability coach, should also help fix your poor attention span.

Can reading improve attention span?

Think of focus and distraction not as abstract concepts but as tangible entities—acquaintances, if you may. Whatever you do affects one or the other. Reading rewards focus and discourages distraction. The payback for constantly rewarding focus through reading is a longer attention span.

How can I train my mind to focus?

Know your mind. Understand what makes it tick, what makes you productive, and what ruins your attention span. Does your focus come in short bursts or are you more productive with prolonged concentration?

Trying out different techniques and cultivating a focus routine is how you train your mind to master the art of sustained attention. The key is to know yourself by observing your own behaviors, addressing areas for improvement, and making the necessary changes.


A strong attention span is not something you're born with. It's something you develop. Patience, amidst the progress, is a good thing, but you can't have progress without practice.

Put the phone down. Grab a book. Lace up your shoes. The journey to increasing your attention span starts with the desire for transformation. So, test out all our short-term and long-term solutions to find what works for you.

As Maya Angelou once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Your mind is limitless, and if you want to know how to increase your attention span, just keep doing your best every day, until you know better.

You don't have to face the uphill battle alone, the two-week free trial of our personalized coaching app should help you realize just how easier things get when you have someone to support you in this journey.