Can we increase attention span? In today’s fast-paced world filled with distractions from smartphones, social media, and constant notifications, maintaining focus and attention can feel like an uphill battle. With the rise of digital technology and the constant barrage of information, attention spans seem to be diminishing. Though the scientific evidence on decreasing attention spans in Western societies is mixed and nuanced, there are some worrying trends:

  • Studies suggest that heavy smartphone use and multitasking with digital media may contribute to shorter attention spans and decreased cognitive control (e.g. Ward, Duke, Gneezy, and Bos., 2017 in Computers in Human Behavior).
  • Anecdotal evidence and surveys have raised concerns about declining attention spans, with some studies indicating a decrease in average attention span over time (e.g. A meta-analysis published in the journal Educational Psychology Review conducted by Shapiro, Coyne, and Kellerman in 2018).
  • However, the relationship between digital technology and attention spans is complex, influenced by individual differences, environmental factors, and the type of media content consumed.

However, the ability to concentrate is crucial for productivity, learning, and overall well-being. Fortunately, there are science-backed methods to increase attention span and reclaim your focus. In this article, we will explore effective strategies to enhance attention and concentration, providing you with practical techniques supported by research.

Understanding Attention Span

In order to increase attention span, we need to understand it. Attention span refers to the length of time a person can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted. It is a complex cognitive process influenced by various factors, including genetics, environment, and individual differences. While attention spans can vary from person to person, studies have shown that prolonged exposure to digital devices and multitasking can negatively impact attentional abilities.

In a study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, researchers found that excessive smartphone use was associated with shorter attention spans and reduced cognitive control. Moreover, multitasking, such as checking emails while working on a project, can lead to cognitive overload and diminished focus.

Science-Backed Strategies to Increase Attention Span

  1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Research has shown that regular mindfulness practice can improve attention and concentration. A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that participants who underwent mindfulness training demonstrated better attentional control and reduced mind-wandering compared to those who did not practice mindfulness.
  2. Limit Distractions: Minimizing distractions in your environment can help prolong your attention span. Turn off notifications on your phone, designate a quiet workspace, and establish specific times for focused work. A study published in the journal Computers & Education reported that students who worked in a distraction-free environment performed better on cognitive tasks than those in a noisy environment.
  3. Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks: Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can prevent overwhelm and improve focus. The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, involves working on a task for 25 minutes followed by a short break. Research has shown that this structured approach can enhance productivity and attention span.
  4. Get Adequate Sleep: Sleep plays a crucial role in cognitive function, including attention and concentration. Lack of sleep can impair cognitive performance and attentional control. A study published in the journal Sleep found that sleep-deprived individuals experienced increased distractibility and reduced attention span compared to those who were well-rested.
  5. Engage in Regular Exercise: Physical exercise not only benefits physical health but also cognitive function. Research has shown that regular exercise can enhance attention, memory, and executive function. A study published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews reported that aerobic exercise interventions were associated with improvements in attentional control and cognitive flexibility.
  6. Practice Deep Work: Deep work refers to focused, uninterrupted work on cognitively demanding tasks. By minimizing distractions and immersing yourself in deep work sessions, you can train your attention span and accomplish more meaningful work. Author Cal Newport emphasizes the importance of deep work in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
  7. Cultivate Curiosity: Curiosity stimulates the brain and encourages sustained attention. Engage in activities that pique your interest and challenge your intellect. Research published in the journal Neuron suggests that curiosity enhances learning and memory retention by activating reward circuits in the brain.
  8. Practice Active Listening: Active listening involves fully concentrating on the speaker without interrupting or formulating a response. By honing your listening skills, you can improve your attention span and deepen interpersonal connections. Psychologist Carl Rogers emphasized the importance of empathic listening in his client-centered therapy approach.


In a world filled with distractions, working to increase attention span is essential for success and well-being. By implementing science-backed strategies such as mindfulness meditation, limiting distractions, and engaging in regular exercise, you can cultivate a sharper focus and reclaim control over your attention. Remember that increasing attention span is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. By incorporating these techniques into your daily routine, you can boost your cognitive abilities and thrive in an increasingly demanding world.


  1. Mindfulness Meditation: The study published in the journal Psychological Science was conducted by Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., & Baime, M. J. and was published in 2007.
  2. Limit Distractions: The study published in the journal Computers & Education was conducted by Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. and was published in 2013.
  3. Get Adequate Sleep: The study published in the journal Sleep was conducted by Durmer, J. S., & Dinges, D. F. and was published in 2005.
  4. Engage in Regular Exercise: The study published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews was conducted by Chang, Y. K., Labban, J. D., Gapin, J. I., & Etnier, J. L. and was published in 2012.
  5. Cultivate Curiosity: The research published in the journal Neuron was conducted by Gruber, M. J., Gelman, B. D., & Ranganath, C. and was published in 2014.


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