Here’s How To Test Your Attention Span—Plus 4 Expert-Backed Tips for Increasing It

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Your attention span describes how long you’re able to focus on an object or task, and it can have implications on your well-being. For instance, if you’re having trouble focusing at work or during school or even in chats with loved ones, the effects stand to be damaging to your life (Think: bad reviews, suffering grades, arguments). Furthermore, having a shorter-than-desired attention span may leave you feeling sad, stressed, or frustrated about not being able to focus, even though you'd like to. The good news is you're not relegated to sleepless nights of berating yourself for the trouble you have focusing. Improving your attention span is possible, and doing so can pave the way for you to feel less stressed about, say, tuning out of a conversation or not completing a task.

Experts In This Article
  • Erlanger Turner, PhD, Erlanger Turner, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and university professor based in Los Angeles.

Before setting your sights on improvement, gauge where you fall on the attention-span continuum. And perhaps the easiest way to ascertain whether you have a high or low attention span is with this 10-question assessment from Psychology Today. Though the quiz is not a clinical diagnostic, it can still yield helpful results to take note of—particularly if you’re struggling to stay on track. In general, though, if you find yourself struggling to maintain focus for even a few minutes, it could be a sign that you have a short attention span.

So, what can you do about it? Read on to learn four psychologist-recommended tips for getting your attention span in tip-top shape.

4 expert-backed ways for improving your attention span

1. Improve your sleep hygiene

One in three Americans don’t get enough sleep, so a great many of us could benefit from prioritizing our snooze routine. With regards to attention span, this also tracks, given that a lack of sleep is linked to an inability to focus.

“Most of us don’t get enough sleep. This could also lead to difficulties in concentration and sustaining attention.” —psychologist Erlanger Turner, PhD

“Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is common, and most of us don’t get enough sleep. This could also lead to difficulties in concentration and sustaining attention,” says licensed psychologist Erlanger Turner, PhD. To improve your attention span, he adds, it may be helpful to ensure that you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep for your age group.

2. Exercise

“If you find yourself having trouble with attention and concentration, it can help to take a brief walk or to engage in regular physical activity,” says Dr. Turner. Some of the benefits of exercise include increasing blood flow, stimulating the brain, and improving cognitive functioning, he adds, and all of those factor into an improved attention span. (And, remember, exercise can be as simple as committing to walking a mile a day.)

3. Try a meditation or mindfulness practice

Meditation and mindfulness practices can offer benefits like helping you be more present and allowing you to integrate and process the information you're constantly taking in. For these reasons, Dr. Turner says this dynamic duo can serve as an effective tool for improving your attention span.

Research shows that meditation and mindfulness practices, such as yoga, can help to increase concentration and attention,” he says, suggesting that people find a meditation app or join a meditation class to help increase their attention span.

4. Give yourself a break

In a world where it's too easy to feel like we’re only worth what we produce, it’s important to note the mental-health benefits of leisure. The next time that you’re feeling unable to focus, taking a break can be great for improving your attention span when you come back to the task, says Dr. Turner.

“Often we can have difficulties with attention because our mind is too stimulated,” he says. “Give yourself a five-to-10-minute break. Step away from the task to get water, stretch, or practice deep breathing. Breaks can help you feel more motivated and focused.”

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