• We all have trouble from time-to-time focusing on a school or work assignment, as we fall victim to distractions or a low attention span. 
  • Fortunately, we can increase our focus by strengthening our attention span and making sure that we are getting enough sleep.
  • To strengthen your attention span, try focusing on your breath, staying engaged with one task in a controlled amount of time, or giving your brain several activities to work on.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep by checking the National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines; chances are you need at least 7 hours each night.
  • Do your best to take a step back from all of the distractions and hone in on the important responsibilities at hand—you will become more successful. 

You have an important school assignment to knock out. You sit down, open your laptop, and your eye is immediately drawn to a hilarious YouTube video that your friend has shared on Facebook. You sit and watch the video over and over again, send it to your other friends, and chat with them about how funny it is. Suddenly, you’ve wasted an hour that was supposed to be dedicated to your work.

Has this ever happened to you?  You just can’t quite get in the “zone” or your focus is easily interrupted.  Here’s the thing: It happens to us all. We set the right intentions but fail to churn out anything remotely productive. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks that can help you get tasks done: specifically, strengthening your attention span and checking in on your sleep routine.

Engage in Activities That Strengthen Your Attention Span Muscle

Steven Reigns, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, encourages people to think of attention as a muscle and engage in activities that strengthen your attention span. Here are a few of those activities:

1. Focus on your breath. 
“Meditation is one way to build your attention muscle,” says Reigns. “I’d suggest meditation centered on your breath for short durations of time. When you find your thoughts going to your boss at work or grocery list, simply move back to the original focus of your breath.” 

2. Set your timer.
Also, try setting a timer and work on one specific task for that amount of time. “Set an egg timer or the timer on your phone for a short increment of time and focus only on that activity until the timer goes off,” Reigns explains. “An example would be setting a timer for 12 minutes and working on your resume until the timer goes off. When the timer goes off, take a break, come back to it, and set the timer again. Soon you will build attention stamina.” 

3. Toggle: 
If the last tip doesn’t work for you, you can also try “toggling” between several activities to keep your brain from getting bored. “Another way to deal with a short attention span is to give yourself tasks to toggle between. Select 2-3 activities that you’re looking to accomplish and only allow yourself to work on those activities,” says Reigns. “The difference in activities might offer enough stimuli to hold your attention.” 

Try one or all of these tips to work on strengthening your attention span.  Like any muscle, the more you work on it the stronger it gets. And the strength of your attention span is crucial to your success at school or work

Sleep Is Crucial to Daily Productivity

Sleep is another important piece to the puzzle of increasing daily productivity levels.  Carolyn Dean, Health and Wellness Thought Leader and Founder of RNA Reset, says improved sleep equals an improved attention span:

Lack of sleep does not allow the brain to repair and re-charge and lower stress levels. It increases daytime tiredness and reduces attention span and focus. If your life/job requires focus, clear thinking and energy, lack of sleep will affect your brain functionality, you will make mistakes, you will not catch opportunities and you may not get along with co-workers, siblings, family or your boss.”

Therefore, if you have trouble concentrating at school or work, it might benefit you to take a look at your sleep hygiene. Are you getting enough sleep? You probably need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. To be sure, check with the National Sleep Foundation. And if you find that you aren’t meeting your sleep minimum, make some changes that will allow you to get enough rest.

Manually Tune into Important Tasks

In today’s society, people are constantly on the go.  They always have somewhere to be, something to do, or someone to see, whether that be physically or digitally (i.e. Facetime, social media, or digital gaming). This often gets in the way of our responsibilities at school and work, making it important that we manually tune into the task we actually need to focus on. The above tips should help you do so and might even make you more productive than you’ve ever been before.