5 easy ways to increase focus and attention span

If life is starting to sound like the adults in Charlie Brown’s world, your attention span might need help.

Research shows the average attention span is decreasing, especially when it comes to screens, with the most recent data indicating an average of 47 seconds.

Improving your attention span can lead to increased efficiency at work, better relationships, and improved time management and emotional regulation, Dr. Roberto Olivardia, clinical associate in psychology at McLean Hospital and lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School, said in a conversation with “Today.”

Here are some proven methods, according to Olivardia, to increase your attention span:

Get your sleep in check

Rapid eye movement, or REM, is an important phase of sleep dedicated to learning and memory. Failure to get enough sleep affects our ability to reach that phase, thus limiting our brain’s ability to function optimally.

“Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our overall health, including improving attention,” Olivardia said.

Use active listening

Not active listening “can leave friends and family frustrated,” Olivardia explained.

According to BetterUp, some ways to improve this skill include concentrating on only what someone’s saying and not your response, staying calm and focusing on a single subject, like a podcast, without scrolling your phone at the same time.


“Any movement or exercise boosts attention,” Olivardia said. “The kind of exercise is less important than having an established routine of movement, which gets your heart rate going. Exercise stimulates production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a key molecule impacted in boosting neuronal growth, connections and neuroplasticity.”

Prioritize healthy foods

Consume healthy foods rich in nutrients that boost brain function, such as blueberries, protein, complex carbs and fiber. Stay hydrated and avoid eating too much or too little, as hunger can be distracting.

Remove distractions

Limit screen time, make your workspace distraction-free and minimize notifications during working hours. If you have children, schedule deep-focus work when they are at school or with friends.

Olivardia also recommends staying off screens at least an hour before bedtime and taking a vision break using the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, you look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This is beneficial for eye health,” Olivardia said.