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How to Improve Attention Span: 10 Strategies for Longer Focus

Productivity
Jul 17, 2023

There’s a show on Netflix called ‘The Mind, Explained.’ It’s a documentary show that explains pretty exciting stuff within the same time it takes to watch an episode of Modern Family or your favorite sitcom.

In one of the episodes, the host talks about a scientist, Hugo Gernsback, in 1925, who realized that the most challenging thing for a human being to do is ‘long, concentrated thinking.’ So, he created an interesting device to help himself shut out distractions and improve his attention span.

The device was called The Isolator — a wooden helmet that eliminated 95% of noise from the outside world. The helmet had two tiny spaces for the eyes and a long detachable hose for oxygen supply.

If an isolation helmet sounds like something from a horror sci-fi movie, it’s because it probably is. But that’s a pointer to two things:

One. Even the earliest versions of humans have always struggled with eliminating distractions and building focus.

Two. Whether through isolation helmets or noise-canceling headphones, goal-oriented people are always sourcing ways to outmaneuver the many-faced god of distractions so they can focus for longer cycles.

Sci-fi devices may sound cool now, but there are much easier and more practical ways to improve your attention span that don't involve invoking the spirit of a mad scientist. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how attention span works and strategies you can employ to have a better attention span.

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Table of Contents

Understanding Attention Span

Your attention span is the length of time you can maintain concentration on a given task. It is critical in everyday life, professional pursuits, and academic success. 

Attention span is a person's capacity to concentrate on a task without distractions. This fundamental cognitive attribute significantly impacts memory consolidation, effective problem-solving, and learning.

However, attention spans can vary from person to person. While some people can stay focused for extended periods, others find it challenging to concentrate on a task for even a few minutes. A leading psychologist writes here that current research indicates that the average person can only pay attention to one screen for 47 seconds. 

47 seconds?! In 2004, that number was 150 seconds (and we thought that was horrible.)

Several factors can influence attention span, including age, genetics, and environmental factors. For example, young children typically have shorter attention spans than adults, while older adults may experience cognitive decline that affects their ability to focus.

Genetics can also affect an individual's attention span, with some people being more predisposed to having a shorter or longer attention span.

Environmental factors such as noise, interruptions, and multitasking can also reduce how much time someone remains attentive, affecting their ability to concentrate on a task. Computer screens, emails, and social media apps deserve a special mention here.

Attention span can generally be classified into two categories: 

Sustained Attention and Selective Attention

Sustained attention is the ability to remain focused on a task for an extended period, while selective attention involves ignoring distractions and focusing on a specific task.

Improving attention span means developing strategies to overcome distractions, creating a conducive environment for concentration, setting achievable goals, and taking regular breaks to avoid burnout.

Mindfulness and meditation practices can also help improve attention span and increase focus and productivity. Simply locking your phone in a drawer while you work also does the job.

Signs You Might Have a Poor Attention Span

Recognizing the signs of a poor attention span is vital because it allows you to make suitable adjustments before any irreversible damage happens. Preventive rather than reactive. 

Common signs of attention issues include the following:

Difficulty Concentrating

Difficulty concentrating refers to the inability to focus on a task or block out distractions. It may signal challenges with organizing thoughts and directing attention. 

This condition can stem from various factors, including physical, mental, and emotional causes.

Physical causes of difficulty concentrating may arise from conditions like fatigue, injury, or illness. Mental factors such as lack of motivation, boredom, stress, or anxiety may also hinder concentration. 

Emotional issues such as depression may further contribute to difficulty concentrating.

Easily Distracted

People with poor attention spans often have difficulty focusing on one task or activity for an extended period. 

They may be easily distracted by outside stimuli and everything that strolls into the human theater of imagination. For example, they may find themselves refreshing through their IG feed to consume extra videos of animal cuteness when you should be going toe-to-toe with your current project.

Distractions breed frustration, leading to disorientation, anger, and sadness. It may also become difficult for you to follow directions or retain information.

Short Attention Span (SAS)

SAS is a common issue that affects many people. 

Common signs of SAS include difficulty focusing on one task, getting easily distracted, and paying attention to details. 

People with short attention spans may struggle to remember instructions or quickly lose their train of thought. SAS can make completing tasks on time and following through with commitments difficult.

Forgetfulness

When trying to focus on something or stay engaged in a task for an extended period, it is common for people to forget small details or lose track of what they are doing entirely. 

People with poor attention spans often struggle to remember instructions or facts that have been recently discussed.

Lack of Focus

This manifests in an inability to concentrate and difficulty handling tasks that require focus. For example, reading academic texts. People who lack focus often find themselves sidetracked easily and have difficulty retaining information.

Symptoms also include an inability to remember details or recall certain words or numbers, a tendency to jump from one thought to another without focusing on any particular one, and feelings of restlessness or boredom.

10 Effective Techniques to Improve Attention Span

It’s near impossible to be productive and lead a successful life while being heavily saddled with a poor attention span. 

Fortunately, there are several effective techniques to improve attention span and help us stay focused longer. Here are ten tips for developing a more extended focus.

Practice Mindful Meditation

Meditation is a technique that has been practiced for centuries worldwide to focus the mind on the present moment by directing attention to specific objects or processes. Regular meditation enhances attention span by increasing activity in the prefrontal cortex responsible for attention and decision-making.

Moreover, mindfulness meditation training is particularly effective in improving attention span and reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity in individuals with ADHD.

The problem with mindfulness meditation is that we don’t do it enough. It’s not a meditation problem but a ‘time’ problem. Many people say it is challenging to find the time to stay still for 5-10 minutes daily.

If you need help finding time to practice mindful meditation, try using Focus Bear. The app is designed to help you devote time to meaningful and helpful things like mindful meditation. 

Even short periods of meditation have been found to positively impact attention span and cognitive flexibility.

A study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal found that 10 minutes of daily meditation for two weeks actually improves a person’s attention span.

Screenshot of ADHD App: Focus Bear's morning routine reminder, prompting the user to kickstart their day with a productive routine

Take Regular Breaks and Rest Your Eyes

The human brain is not built to sustain long periods of focused attention without rest. Consistent work periods without breaks can reduce productivity and cause difficulty concentrating. 

There is a simple way to go about taking breaks. People have referred to this straightforward yet impressively effective strategy with different names: 

Pomodoro Technique. Tomato Timer. Timeboxing. 

We’ll go with Pomodoro Technique. Sounds more adventurous.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves breaking down work into focused intervals, typically 25 minutes, followed by a short break. You focus solely on the task during each interval without distractions or interruptions. After each interval, you take a short break, ideally around 5 minutes, to recharge your energy levels.

Implementing this technique effectively means you’ll need a specially-built timer or a simple app with a Pomodoro clock to keep track of your intervals and breaks. We think you should go for the app. Far less costly, yeah?

Apps like Focus Bear app provide customizable timers that remind you to take a break every 20-30 minutes. 

Screenshot of ADHD App: Focus Bear's reminder feature, prompting users to take a break for enhanced productivity and well-being

With consistent use, this technique can help you maintain high productivity levels without burnout.

Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking is a habit many of us have developed due to our fast-paced world. We think multitasking can help us get more done, but it doesn’t. It is, in fact, counterproductive and ANTI good attention span.

Focusing on one task at a time helps you stay focused and gives you better results in less time. Set aside specific times dedicated to one task during the day and avoid switching between tasks too often.

Practicing Deep Breathing Techniques

Taking just a few moments to focus on your breathing can help you relieve stress and refocus on the task. Deep breathing techniques, such as box breathing, can help you improve your attention span and focus by helping clear your mind of distractions and improving oxygen flow throughout the body.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity can help to improve overall cognitive performance, including focus and attention. Exercise has been linked to many physical and mental health benefits, such as improving memory, reducing stress levels, and increasing concentration. Regular exercise helps to increase blood flow to the brain and is associated with enhanced productivity in daily tasks.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating a diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals can help improve cognitive function, including focus and attention. Foods high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, iron, and zinc, such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables, promote healthy mental functioning.

Get plenty of lean proteins like fish, chicken, and legumes to keep your energy levels up so you can concentrate better. Avoid sugary, processed, and fried foods that can cause a drop in energy and focus.

Regular Sleep Routine

Research has shown that adults who maintain consistent and regular bedtimes report higher levels of cognitive functioning, including longer and better-quality concentration. Setting aside enough time for sleep is vital to improving focus, memory, and overall mental and physical health.

Experts recommend that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but the amount can vary based on individual needs. A regular sleep schedule can help set your body’s natural clock, improving focus and attention during the day.

Increase Concentration With Brain Exercises

Brain exercises can help you stay focused and improve your attention span. Puzzles, such as crosswords or Sudoku, improve your problem-solving skills and teach you to think creatively. Working on a puzzle challenges the brain to stay engaged and focused while controlling distractions around you.

Studies have also shown that solving puzzles regularly can help improve cognitive functioning and increase attention span.

Another excellent brain exercise is memory games, such as memorizing lists or sequences of numbers or words. This helps you practice concentration and encourages your brain to form new neural pathways, leading to greater mental flexibility. Memory games help with both short-term memory recall and long-term memory formation.

Reading

Reading is a great way to improve one's attention span. It helps us focus better and train our brains to pay more attention for extended periods. This can be especially helpful when reading complex material or topics that require careful thought and analysis.

To maximize the benefit, it’s best to find engaging books or articles that hold your attention and focus on the material for at least 30 minutes daily. If you have difficulty focusing on a particular book or article, try breaking it into smaller portions to make it easier to digest.

Prioritizing Tasks

Setting goals for yourself and breaking them down into manageable steps can help you stay on task longer. The key is to set achievable goals that will keep you motivated and engaged and provide a sense of accomplishment when achieved. 

When tackling long-term tasks, break them into smaller pieces and prioritize which should be done first.

Making a to-do list each day pushes us to be intentional with our focus and reduces the risk of getting distracted. A clear action plan can motivate you when working on a task requiring sustained concentration.

Apps like Trello, Asana, and Focus Bear can help you prioritize better if you don’t already have a system for doing so.

Screenshot of ADHD App: Focus Bear's 'Edit Habit' page, enabling users to add or customize Focus Modes for personalized productivity

3 Best Apps for Improving Attention Span

There are many apps designed to help improve your attention span. Here are three of the best for Android and iOS devices:

Focus Bear

Focus Bear app helps users develop a consistent and sustained focus. With its distraction-blocking feature, the app enables users to immerse themselves in their work without the constant interruption of notifications or the temptation to check social media. This focus-enhancing capability can help users increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve their mental health.

Screenshot of ADHD App: Focus Bear's website blocking feature in action, preventing access to distracting websites for enhanced focus and productivity

Another key feature of the Focus Bear app is its adaptability. The app allows users to tailor its settings to their needs, which can be especially useful for people with ADHD. By blocking certain websites or apps that are particularly distracting, users can create an environment conducive to productivity and focus.

In addition to its distraction-blocking capabilities, the Focus Bear app also provides resources and suggestions for activities that can help users alleviate symptoms of ADHD. These activities, such as aerobic exercise, yoga, and meditation, have been shown to improve focus and concentration, making them an excellent complement to the app's core features.

Forest

Forest is a unique productivity app that gamifies the Pomodoro Technique. In this app, you plant a digital tree when you start work sessions, and the tree dies if you leave before the timer is up. You can accumulate different types of trees and build your forest.

This app provides a sense of achievement and satisfaction as you see your digital forest grow and can help you stay motivated to complete tasks without distractions.

Trello

Trello is a web-based project management tool that uses a visual, card-based approach to help teams organize and prioritize tasks. It was first released in 2011 and has since gained popularity among teams of all sizes and industries. Trello's interface is based on a system of boards, lists, and cards. 

Users create a board for a specific project, and within each board, they can create lists of tasks or stages in the project. A card represents each task, which can be moved from one list to another to reflect progress. Users can add details to each card, such as due dates, labels, comments, attachments, and checklists. They can also assign tasks to team members and track the progress of each task in real-time.

Benefits of Increasing Attention Span

Focusing on a task is a valuable skill you can develop with effort. Increasing your attention span has numerous benefits that will help you in all aspects of life.

Improves Productivity

When you have a longer attention span, you can concentrate on a task longer without getting distracted. This means you can finish more work in less time, increasing productivity.

Enhances Your Performance

With a longer attention span, you can focus better on important tasks, leading to better performance. You are less likely to make mistakes, miss important details, or lose control of your thoughts.

Improves Engagement With Activities

When you can focus your attention for longer, you can engage more fully in activities like reading a book or listening to music. This can lead to a deeper and more fulfilling experience.

Enhances Collaboration at Work

You can better engage in discussions and collaborate when you have a longer attention span. You can listen more attentively to others' ideas and contribute meaningfully to the conversation.

FAQs About Improving Attention Span

Does ADHD Shorten Attention Span?

Yes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause a person to have difficulty focusing for long periods or paying attention to details. Scientists believe that people with ADHD have shorter attention spans because the brain's prefrontal cortex, which controls focus and concentration, isn't as active in individuals with this condition as it is in people without it.

Does TikTok Shorten Your Attention Span?

TikTok, the popular video-sharing social media platform, is known for its quick and snappy videos that are 15 seconds or less. Some worry that this encourages users to have shorter attention spans and be unable to focus on anything for an extended period.

However, no medical evidence suggests TikTok directly affects your attention span. Instead, research has shown that the more time you spend on any digital device, the more likely it is to affect your focus and concentration during activities that require sustained attention.

Does Attention Span Affect IQ?

Yes, there is a link between attention span and IQ. Attention span directly impacts a person's ability to learn new material quickly and retain it longer. People with shorter attention spans often find it challenging to stay focused in school or on the job, leading to lower academic performance and reduced work productivity over time.

How Can I Stay Focused for More Than 10 Minutes?

Stay focused for over 10 minutes by implementing simple strategies and techniques. These include setting realistic goals, breaking down big tasks into smaller goals, taking breaks, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding distractions, creating a positive environment, practicing mindfulness activities, and using timers or productivity apps.

Are You Ready for Improved Attention?

As you work towards improving your attention span, it's important to have tools and resources that align with your specific pain points and search intent. That's where Focus Bear comes in. Our innovative features, such as an in-built Pomodoro timer and focus tracking, are designed to help you stay on track and maintain concentration.

Whether you struggle with distractions, procrastination, or staying focused for extended periods, Focus Bear has the solutions you need to improve your attention span.

By incorporating Focus Bear into your daily routine, you'll be able to put into practice the tips you've learned and strengthen your ability to maintain your focus. With dedication and consistency, you'll see improvements in your attention span and productivity in no time.

So why wait? Try Focus Bear today and take the first step towards achieving your goals.

Productivity
Jul 17, 2023

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